Alienation Of Affection

North Carolina is one of the few states that still recognizes the claim of Alienation of Affections and Criminal Conversations.

Claims for Alienation of Affections and Criminal Conversations are known as ‘heart balm actions. Alienation of Affections is an act of one party encouraging or taking part in the luring away a spouse from his/her marriage. A party might lure a spouse away from the marriage by offering gifts, personal time, sexual favors, or making negative statements about the other spouse.


In Alienation of Affections actions a person may seek damages as a result of loss of support, loss of services in the home, loss of consortium, loss of affections, emotional distress, injury to reputation and health, and separation from a parties spouse.


It is common that actions for Alienation of Affections are combined with actions for Criminal Conversations. Criminal Conversation is an action where your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another party. It must occur when the parties are married and not legally separated. Further the sex act must occur in the state of North Carolina.


A party may seek money damages from a party for dishonor of the marital bed , destruction of domestic comfort, loss of consortium, invasion and deprivation of exclusive marital rights and privileges, emotional distress, humiliation, injury to health, and loss of support.



Frequently Asked Questions
  • What can I do if I think my marriage ended due to my spouse’s infidelity?Open or Close

    In North Carolina, an individual who has caused a married person to suffer the loss of affection of their spouse can be sued by the injured spouse. In layman’s terms, you may sue your spouse’s paramour. Even if you do not actually file a complaint and sue the paramour, often times the threat of such a lawsuit can be used as leverage in your negotiations with your spouse as you separate and attempt to resolve issues in your domestic case, such as child custody, child support, spousal support and equitable distribution. A cheating spouse may be more likely to offer more to the injured spouse in terms of property distribution or budge in a custody dispute, if the other party agrees not to pursue a lawsuit against the person they had an affair with.

  • What is an Alienation of Affection lawsuit?Open or Close

    Alienation of Affection, also known as a “heart balm action”, is a tort lawsuit, involving a complaint brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage. The defendant in an alienation of affections suit is typically an adulterous spouse's lover, although family members, counselors, therapists and even clergy members who have advised a spouse to seek divorce have also been sued for alienation of affections.


    To prove this type of case legally, however, you must be able to show the court the following:
    1. You and your spouse were happily married and a genuine love and affection existed between you before the outside interference of a third person;
    2. The love and affection was alienated and destroyed by the actions of that third person;
    3. The wrongful and malicious acts of the defendant produced the alienation of affection from your spouse.


    The “malicious” part is presumed if there is proof of sexual intercourse, but malice does not always mean sexual intercourse. It is not necessary for you to prove that your spouse’s lover actually set out to destroy your marriage. Rather, you must show that he or she engaged in acts that would have a foreseeable impact on your marriage.

  • What is Criminal Conversation?Open or Close

    Unlike the Alienation of Affection claim, Criminal Conversation refers to adultery only. The only element required to prevail in this type of action, is proof (or the greater weight of the evidence) that the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with your spouse while you were still living together as a married couple.


    What if the sexual encounter happened outside of the state of North Carolina?
    North Carolina requires that at least one act of sex must occur within the state in order file an action for criminal conversation.

  • What sort of proof do I need for an alienation of affection and/or criminal conversation case?Open or Close

    It is uncommon prior to the initiation of the action to have a confession from the perpetrator. However, one can use circumstantial and other types of evidence to prove the affair occurred, such as phone records, witness testimony, credit card and bank statements, copies of any electronic correspondence between your spouse and his/her paramour (so long as it is retrieved by legal means), and even surveillance conducted by a private investigator.


    Another important aspect to these lawsuits is the establishment of actual damages suffered by the Plaintiff. When it comes time for the trial, the burden of proof is on the Plaintiff to show the jury specifically how they have been harmed by the actions of the Defendant and to provide a dollar figure for those damages. Whether it be from loss of your home to the cost of therapy required to cope with the affair, your attorney will assist you in calculating your losses and guide you in what exhibits to provide for court.

  • What is the process once I file my lawsuit?Open or Close

    Once your lawsuit is filed and served to the Defendant, he or she will have 30 days to file an Answer, including various affirmative defenses and counterclaims. They may also file a motion for an extension of time to file this Answer. In the meantime, your attorney will likely send out discovery for the opposing party to answer, including very specific questions about his or her relationship with your spouse and requests for the production of documents and other items relevant to your case.


    As part of this process, the court will also require both parties to attend mediation prior to setting the case on for trial. A neutral mediator is either selected by the parties or designated by the court, who will assist the parties in coming up with a resolution. The cost of this mediation is generally beared equally by the parties. If no resolution is achieved, the court is notified and your case will need to proceed to trial.

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