Your loving marriage and sense of financial security were just destroyed by the discovery of your spouse’s affair. As you pick up the pieces of your broken marriage and prepare for the next chapter of your life, you watch your spouse seamlessly move-on with the same person responsible for ending your relationship. Such situations occur all too often and can leave one spouse with the need to seek retribution or level the playing field.
Historically, North Carolina marital laws have viewed the marriage as a sacred partnership and protected the rights of the spouses from those interfering with this relationship. These claims are known as “heart balm” actions. Today, most states have eliminated such actions. However, some heart balm claims are still alive and well in North Carolina.
Alienation of Affection actions can be pursued against any person whose wrongful and malicious acts caused the alienation of a genuine love and affection between a married couple. Criminal Conversation claims can be brought against the individual who engaged in a sexual relationship with your spouse during the marriage and prior to the parties’ separation. I’ve always found this term to be rather odd since the claim is not criminal in nature and has nothing to do with “conversations.” In simple form, criminal conversation is ADULTERY.
Whether the goal is to gain monetary compensation or provide a lesson in the importance of morality, the filing of Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation suits continue to rise in North Carolina. The ability to pursue such claims can provide an aggrieved spouse with a tactical advantage in settling their domestic matter and experienced attorneys, like those at Lake Norman Law Firm, are skilled in using these claims to obtain the best possible outcome for an aggrieved spouse. For example, if you sue your 22-year-old nanny for having an affair with your husband, the possibilities of collecting on a judgment against her are diminished since she presumably has little income and minimal assets. However, your husband may be willing to provide you with a larger portion of the marital estate or a greater sum of alimony in exchange for your waiver of any claims against his paramour.
In some instances, pursuing a claim against your spouse’s lover/paramour may be the most advantageous avenue to pursue. You may have heard about Cynthia Shackelford’s case, which made national news. Ms. Shackelford sued her husband’s paramour, Anne Lundquist, the dean of a New York college, for alienation of affection and the resulting demise of her 33-year marriage. A Guilford County jury awarded Ms. Shackelford $5 million in compensatory damages and $4 million dollars in punitive damages to be paid by Ms. Lundquist. In 2014, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld this award (Shackelford v. Lundquist, 759 S.E.2d 711 (2014)). Of the more than 200 alienation of affection cases filed in North Carolina each year, Ms. Shackelford’s case is clearly an outlier, but still an indicator that juries are willing to hold cheaters accountable for their illicit behavior.
The discovery of your spouse’s extramarital affair can add fuel to an already ignited fire of emotions. The attorneys at Lake Norman Law Firm have pursued and defended a high volume of heart balm actions. If you discover your spouse has had an affair, or you are being sued for alienation of affection or criminal conversation, trust us to provide Smart Honest Legal Advice and reach the best possible outcome for your situation.