The state of North Carolina allows for lawsuits based on Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation to preserve the sanctity of marriage and the institution of the family. In fact, it is estimated that more than 200 alienation of affection cases are filed in North Carolina every year.
Alienation of Affection Claims in North Carolina
North Carolina is one of seven states that still recognizes claims of alienation of affection. Alienation of affection is a common law claim. This means there is no state statute that specifically authorizes the claim. Alienation of affection lawsuits are generally brought by a deserted spouse against the boyfriend or girlfriend alleged to be responsible for the failure of marriage. However, the lawsuit could also be brought against another third party such as a mother-in-law, or same-sex lover.
The general basis for an alienation of affection claim is that there was a marriage with genuine love and affection between the Plaintiff and their spouse. This love and affection of the spouse were alienated by the Defendant. The Defendant performed wrongful and malicious acts that were a proximate cause of the alienation of the affections.
Cases of alienation of affection must prove:
- Plaintiff and spouse were happily married and a genuine love and affection existed between them;
- The existing love and affection was alienated; and
- The malicious conduct of defendant was a cause of the loss and alienation of such love and affection.
Claims of alienation of affection are difficult to prove. However, proof of an extramarital sexual relationship is not required. The Plaintiff will not be required to prove that the Defendant intentionally destroyed a marital union, but did engage in behavior and/or acts the would negatively impact the marriage.
In North Carolina, criminal conversation claims are brought in civil court by a Plaintiff who was in a lawful marriage, against a Defendant who had intercourse with the Plaintiff’s spouse during the marriage. It is not necessary for the Plaintiff to prove genuine love and affection existed with their spouse prior to the alleged infidelity.
To prove criminal conversation, the Plaintiff does not have to provide direct proof that sex actually occurred. You only need circumstantial evidence that proves sex occurred. The Plaintiff must also prove that they were in fact married to the spouse during the time of alleged infidelity, regardless of whether or not there was genuine love in that marriage.
Criminal conversation claims are easier to win than alienation of affection claims, however it is not uncommon in the state of North Carolina for the two claims to be filed together.
In North Carolina, adultery can potentially evoke a criminal action. Under NC General Statute Â§14-184, adultery is a class 2 misdemeanor. Typically, a single sex act is not sufficient enough to file for a criminal motion. The crime requires proof that there was habitual intercourse in a lewd and lascivious manner.
Due to the case of Hobbs v. Smith filed in Pender County in 2004, North Carolina General Statute Â§14-184 is constitutional in any North Carolina county, except for Pender County. Hobbs sued, saying the statute was unconstitutional after she was told she would need to either leave her job, marry her partner, or move out of the house she shared with her partner because she was in violation of NC General Statute Â§14-184.
Jamie Vavonese of Vavonese Law Firm handles cases based on alienation of affection, criminal conversation and adultery. If you feel that your spouse or a third party is guilty of any of the above, contact our Raleigh, NC office and speak with a qualified attorney today.