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Suing for alienation of affection after a spouse’s affair

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Divorce

According to a researcher from the University of Utah, 20% to 25% of men and 10% to 15% of women cheat on their spouses. When an affair leads to divorce, a spouse can sue the person the other spouse cheated with for alienation of affection.

Once common throughout the country, the legal ability to bring this claim now exists only in North Carolina and five other states. However, successful claims depend on proving certain allegations.

Genuine marital relationship

The plaintiff must prove to the court that a valid marital relationship existed before the interference occurred. To do so, he or she must provide evidence that the couple once had a loving and harmonious relationship.

Malicious actions of the third party

The plaintiff also must provide evidence that the third party engaged in activities that harmed the marital relationship. These actions could include having an affair with one of the spouses.

Direct connection to marital breakdown

The affair or other interference must have been a significant factor in the deterioration of the marriage. This aspect of the claim can be more difficult to prove if the couple had other problems with their relationship.

Time limitations on lawsuits

In North Carolina, the plaintiff must initiate legal proceedings within three years of the last time the spouse cheated with the third party. Missing this window could result in the court dismissing the case.

Potential damages

If successful, the court may award the plaintiff damages as compensation for the harm the third party caused. Damages may include financial losses, emotional distress and the cost of therapy or counseling.

While the legal option exists to sue the person a spouse had an affair with, it is wise to weigh the emotional costs associated with pursuing such a lawsuit.