With many divorces now being settled as no-fault affairs, you may be surprised to learn that you can still sue for "alienation of affection" in seven states: Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah. In these states, you can sue a third party that you blame for ruining your marriage. If you live in one of these states and meet certain criteria, you may be able to win damages against the person or persons who wrecked your marriage.
When you think of alienation of affection, you probably think of an illicit lover, and often those people are the defendants in a case. Others can be found guilty of interfering with a marriage as well. Maybe your in-laws inserted themselves into your marriage so much that it failed. Your spouse could have gone to a therapist who suggested a divorce. Someone who has a non-sexual but loving relationship with your spouse could also be sued in certain instances.
Proof in these cases can be nebulous. You have to prove that you had a loving marriage before someone else interfered with your relationship. Many marriages have some issues, and these issues often lead to one party or the other seeking comfort elsewhere. You have to prove that a third party wrecked this loving relationship and that they did so "wrongfully" and "maliciously." If someone else has sex with your partner, that action is considered malicious. Meeting all of these criteria is difficult, and judges may be somewhat skeptical since alienation of affection suits seem out of step with today's society.
Obviously, your marriage cannot be put back together in court. If the third party has significant assets, you might receive monetary damages. In some cases, the real purpose of these suits is to get a better financial settlement in the divorce. A skilled family law attorney will be able to advise you if filing such a suit is in your best interest. They are rare but still pursued in some areas, particularly North Carolina.
If you believe that your excellent marriage was ruined by a third party, you may be able to punish the guilty party by filing an alienation of affection suit. Remember, you will have to show that your marriage was above reproach to be successful. If you can, you may at least be awarded some money for your trouble, and the third party's name will be made public. Contact a divorce attorney in your area for more information.
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