Your husband cheated on you with another woman. You feel rage. You can’t believe this is happening and now your marriage is ending. You’ve filed for divorce.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sue her for breaking up your marriage? You could if you lived in Utah, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, or Mississippi. That’s right—these six states still recognize an antiquated law known as alienation of affection.
Alienation of affection comes from an English law when women were considered property. Back then, a man could sue another man for stealing his wife. That same law still applies in six states, except now men can be considered property and women can sue.
So how does this law work? Basically, there must be proof that a couple had a happy marriage until a third party entered the picture and ruined it. He or she must have coerced one of the spouses to leave their marriage. Sex is not a requirement.
These three elements apply:
The third party did not have to intend to destroy the marriage. And the third party has a defense if they truly did not know that the spouse was married and they were not the one who seduced the other person.
But all marriages have their ups and downs. None are perfect, so how can it be proven that one person caused the marriage to end in divorce? The main factor is that the marriage could have weathered these storms—that is, until the third party comes along and interferes with the marriage, causing one of the spouses to “alienate their affections.”
When the jilted spouse sues the third party, they can be awarded a large settlement. In 2019, a North Carolina man was awarded $750,000 after suing a man who had an affair with his wife.
In 2010, a woman in North Carolina was awarded $9 million after she sued a woman who seduced her husband of 33 years.
However, not everyone is looking for a huge payday. Those who have been victimized by their spouse sue because they want to make a statement. They want it to be known that morality matters and a marriage is sacred. It can be devastating when someone comes along and ruins a happy marriage.
Many have tried to repeal the law over the years, but there has been no success. In North Carolina, the law is still quite prevalent. One lawyer has had 30 such cases in the past 31 years.
Some marital laws are old-fashioned and hardly ever used today. Alienation of affection is one of them. Maryland does not recognize this.
If you are considering divorce, there are some laws that apply. The Columbia divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. can help. While we can’t sue someone for ruining your marriage, we can help you get a favorable outcome otherwise. Call (410) 774-5987 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation. We have two offices to serve you.
7310 Ritchie Highway, Suite 910
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
30 Corporate Center
10440 Little Patuxent Parkway,
Columbia, MD 21044