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Alienation of Affection & Criminal Conversion

Filing a Lawsuit for Loss of Affection Due to Adultery

Adultery can levy emotional tolls on families and cause significant financial problems. So, what options are available when an adulterous spouse causes a marital relationship to suffer?

Typically, individuals might either look to the help of a marriage counselor or seek a divorce. However, there might be another option. In North Carolina, when an adulterous spouse’s paramour (lover) jeopardizes the marital relationship, the spouse’s paramour could be liable for the damage done to the marriage.

North Carolina is one of a select few states that recognize tort claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation. These are two legal actions that can be brought separately, although they are often discussed together. Jetton & Meredith represents victims of alienation of affection and criminal conversion.

If adultery caused the end of your marriage, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against your spouse’s lover. Call the team at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC at (704) 931-5535 for a consultation with one of our lawyers.

Proving that Your Spouse's Lover Is Liable

Under the law, alienation of affection involves a wrongful act that deprives a married person of the affection and comfort of his or her spouse. Alienation of affection and criminal conversion are substantiated by willful and malicious interference in the marriage by a third party, known as the paramour. In order to sue a person for loss of affection, however, you must be able to substantiate your claims and prove liability.

In order to prove liability, you must be able to show that:

  • You and your spouse were happily married prior to the paramour’s interference
  • Both spouses shared genuine love and affection for each other
  • That affection and love was alienated and destroyed
  • Malicious acts (such as sexual intercourse) caused the alienation of affection

    Criminal conversation is related to the adulterous act. In a cause of action for criminal conversation, the plaintiff must show: (1) an actual marriage between the spouses; and (2) sexual intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse. Criminal conversation and alienation of affection are very similar, except criminal conversation lacks the required intent necessary for an alienation of affection claim.

    These civil lawsuits are also often accompanied by a claim for punitive damages.

    There is a three-year statute of limitations for alienation of affection claims. Accrual for alienation of affection occurs when the wrong is complete. In other words, the three-year period begins to run when the alienation of affection is complete. Criminal conversation claims have the same three-year statute of limitations. For criminal conversation, the period begins to run on the date of the last act giving rise to the claim.

    The Effect of Adultery on Your Divorce Settlement

    Although infidelity has no impact on divorce settlements in no-fault states, North Carolina continues to recognize these tort actions, and the outcome may affect your divorce. In cases involving high-value assets or complex property division, a tort of this nature can substantially alter the alimony agreement.

    Sometimes, the threat of a lawsuit is enough to impact the outcome of a divorce.* Because this area of law is complex, it is important to seek advice from an attorney to understand how the law applies to your situation. When you contact a lawyer at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC, we can explain your rights and legal options.

    If you believe you are the victim of alienation of affection in North Carolina, call (704) 931-5535 to discuss your situation with Jetton & Meredith.

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