Tips to avoid Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation claims
- The easiest way: Do not get involved with a married person (though this does not always prevent a claim)
- If you do get involved with a married person be sure he or she is no longer living with their spouse and that they intend the separation is permanent.
- If you are married, think through the scenario of being sued by the spouse of another and what you might have to pay to avoid the lawsuit and having your spouse find out
What is alienation of affection? Is it the same as criminal conversation?
Alienation of affection is any malicious conduct that destroys or seriously damages the love and affection of one spouse for the other.
Criminal conversation is sexual intercourse with the spouse of another.
Both claims require the alleged conduct occur during the marriage and before the separation of the married couple.
What does “involvement” look like?
There is not a cookie cutter for these cases. For Alienation of Affections, there has to be a genuine marital relationship to interfere with in the first place and that looks different from person to person. Then there has to be some conduct by the outsider to cause serious harm to that relationship.
If one’s involvement crosses the line of friendship into something more intimate, then the allegation of alienation of affection may stand. This involvement can take the form of lengthy conversations, phone calls, text messaging (especially in the late evening hours), buying meals, gifts or paying for another’s expenses and travel. Generally, it involves choosing to spend time with the spouse of another to the detriment of said spouse.
As you can see many if not all of these can happen in a perfectly innocent friendship or even work relationship—in small doses.
North Carolina’s laws that allow suing a spouse’s lover for damages
While North Carolina remains of one of six states in our country that recognize the civil claims of alienation of affection and criminal conversation, it is unclear how long this will remain the case.
Former Fayetteville Mayor Marshall B. Pitts Jr. is named in an alienation of affection lawsuit filed by the estranged husband of Joi-Anna Tart, one of Pitt’s employees. Pitts and Tart, who is a legal assistant at his law practice, say the accusation is untrue and is an attempt by the husband to avoid paying long-term spousal support.
A Superior Court judge in Forsyth County ruled in June that the laws allowing people to sue their spouse’s alleged lover for damages violate the constitutional protections of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It appears this is the first ruling in North Carolina to challenge the constitutionality of the law. But state–wide change will come too late to prevent Pitts from having to answer to the claims against him.
How much does it cost to defend an Alienation of Affection or Criminal Conversation suit?
Fees for settlement negotiations can range from $5-10,000 depending on the complexity, plus the settlement itself.Fees for a defense at trial in civil superior court could range from $35-50,000 or more, which is why it is so important to avoid any behavior that would provoke a suit.
At Rawls, Scheer, Foster & Mingo, our attorneys will work to resolve these claims discretely or litigate them loudly. Whether you have been sued or simply threatened with a lawsuit, we will protect you in every way possible.