Alienation of Affection in North Carolina

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When it comes to ending a marriage, North Carolina is a “no-fault” state, which means that if a couple decides to file for divorce, they do not need to provide grounds that one of the parties caused the breakup.

Typically, it’s easier for a couple to go forward with a divorce without trying to prove that one of them is to blame for the demise of their marriage. However, there is one instance where a party can seek damages from another due to actions that caused a loss of love in a marriage: alienation of affection.

An alienation of affection lawsuit is a civil action where one member of a marriage sues a third party who he or she believes to have caused the end of affection or love in his or her marriage. That means if your spouse had an affair, you can sue the person with whom he or she had the affair. This type of suit, which is legally only available in North Carolina and a handful of other states, can also be referred to as a dignitary tort because it causes harm to a person’s dignity rather than causing some sort of physical harm.

How to File an Alienation of Affection Lawsuit

Generally, three things must exist to prove alienation of affection:

  • There was genuine love and affection that existed in the marriage;
  • That love and affection was demolished; and
  • Said love and affection was demolished by the third party.

You cannot file an alienation of affection suit if you have already separated from your spouse with the intention of permanently ending the marriage when the actions of the third party occur. Additionally, you cannot file the suit if it’s been more than three years since the last action that led to the alienation occurred.

What is Alienation of Affection in North Carolina?

How Alienation of Affection Impacts Divorce Proceedings

An alienation of affection suit does not directly impact divorce proceedings, but the actions of the married person definitely can. If a person in a marriage performs an act deemed by the state as marital misconduct, that person may not be entitled to post-separation support or alimony in divorce proceedings.

The term “marital misconduct” covers many different examples, such as committing illicit sexual acts, abandoning your spouse, removing your spouse from the marital home, and making life intolerable for your spouse. Additionally, these are all acts that could be committed during an affair and can also be present in an alienation of affection suit. For example:

  • A spouse who has an affair can result in that spouse committing illicit sexual acts with her paramour.
  • A spouse who has an affair can decide he has fallen in love with his paramour, leading him to leave his spouse for his paramour.
  • A spouse who has an affair can decide she would like for her spouse to leave the marital home so her paramour can move in.
  • A spouse who has an affair can decide he wants a divorce and decides to get his spouse to agree by making her home life so intolerable that she feels forced to agree.

In all of the above scenarios, the third party, or paramour, could be subject to an alienation of affection suit, and the spouse could forfeit his or her rights to alimony, post-separation support, or any other monetary awards.

Contact a North Carolina Alienation of Affection Lawyer

Proving alienation of affection could be tricky, but if you have suffered from this type of dignitary tort, you should discuss your options with a qualified North Carolina divorce attorney. Since 2000, Jonathan Breeden has been using his vast experience in North Carolina’s family courts and his compassionate nature to help people with their sensitive legal issues. Call Breeden Law Offices today at (919) 661-4970 to discuss your situation with us.

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