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North Carolina Marital Torts

Marital torts, often called “heart-balm” torts, are civil claims allowing individuals to recover damages when their spouse has cheated and/or left them for another. North Carolina is one of the few states where these torts remain legally viable. At Gantt Family Law, we handle many cases of alienation of affection and criminal conversation. Whether another has wronged you or you are defending a suit, contact one of our experienced lawyers to discuss your options.

What Qualifies As Alienation Of Affection?

In North Carolina, these are typically the basic requirements for filing an alienation of affection lawsuit:

  • The spouses had a happy and loving marriage before the affair.
  • The spouses no longer have a happy and loving marriage.
  • The affair played a role in the decline of their marriage.

Additionally, “affair” does not exclusively include sexual intercourse. While a sexual affair can be one example, so can other forms of emotional or romantic infidelity. Your situation is unique, and you may wonder how it fits within the description. Our lawyers can help you find clarity regarding your circumstances.

Who Initiates Alienation Of Affection Lawsuits?

To file an alienation of affections lawsuit, you must do so within three years of the last actions that caused the break in the relationship. It’s usually the spouse hurt by the affair filing a lawsuit against the paramour. However, there may be instances where they sue the spouse who engaged in the affair instead.

Alienation of affection lawsuits are generally filed once the marital relationship has been irreparably damaged or destroyed, which can apply to more than just a marital affair. This could include any malicious conduct by a spouse against another, such as theft, lying or other deceptive behavior. It does not require that the offending spouse has had sexual intercourse to establish the damage to the relationship.

How Can Spouses Prove Infliction Of Emotional Distress?

The plaintiff spouse may try to demonstrate infliction by proving the following applies to the cheating spouse:

  • They engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct.
  • They intentionally tried to inflict emotional distress on their partner.
  • The feel indifferent about the emotional distress their affair caused.

We can help you review whether your spouse’s actions fall under these guidelines.

What Are The Defenses To Alienation Of Affection Lawsuits?

Regardless of your position – plaintiff or defendant – you must understand the possible defenses to alienation of affection. As the plaintiff, it prepares you to counter the tactics of the defense. As the defendant, it can help you choose a sound strategy for overcoming your situation.

  • The defendant can claim they were unaware that the other party was married (no wedding ring, claims of being single)
  • Evidence of the spouse aggressively pursuing the defendant (intimate messages, social media flirting) can help the defense
  • Showing that the defendant’s actions were not romantic (casual friendship, supportive behavior) might be a defense
  • Proof that the marriage was in trouble before the defendant’s involvement (counseling records, separate finances) can strengthen the defense

What Are The Odds Of Winning An Alienation Of Affection Case?

The incredibly nuanced nature of these lawsuits makes predicting success or failure problematic without an attorney review. Every situation is different, with unique factors that can turn the tide either way.

For example, it may be hard to prove a former loving marriage if affectionate displays were not something you engaged in as a couple.

Since these lawsuits involve third-party interference with a happy marriage, a detailed chronology of the marital relationship is crucial. It should demonstrate a positive and affectionate marriage dynamic before the third party’s involvement.

These forms of evidence can strengthen an alienation of affection claim.

  • Photos and videos of shared vacations, anniversaries and everyday happy moments
  • Written expressions of affection and sentiment, such as love letters and cards
  • Positive social media posts with family updates and declarations of love
  • Financial records demonstrating shared long-term goals (buying a home or vacation property together)

An experienced attorney can be a powerful asset in an alienation of affection suit. They can assess your situation and craft a compelling legal strategy that maximizes your odds of success. Amidst the emotional turmoil you may be experiencing, they provide a level-headed perspective and emotional support, allowing you to focus on healing with the knowledge that your case is in good hands.

Alienation Of Affection, Criminal Conversation And Emotional Distress

Criminal conversation happens when a spouse has a sexual affair outside of the marriage. People typically file these claims alongside an alienation of affection claim. The plaintiff is typically the spouse who says they are a victim of the sexual affair as they try to prove how the affair destroyed their marriage and inflicted emotional distress on them. Attorney Richard Gantt has extensive experience representing clients in high profile divorce trials that speak to these differences.

What Damages Can Spouses Receive For Alienation Of Affection?

There are three types of damages that can be obtained through an alienation of affection lawsuit: compensatory, punitive and attorney fees. Compensatory damages can include any monetary and non-monetary damages that you may have suffered, such as lost wages or emotional distress. Punitive damages are normally imposed by a jury for particularly egregious behavior and can be capped at a certain amount. Attorney fees are sometimes granted where the other spouse is required to pay for both spouses’ legal fees.

Our Raleigh Family Law Attorneys Can Help You With Your Marital Tort Case

At Gantt Family Law, we are experienced in handling cases involving marital torts. If another has damaged your marriage, or you are being sued for these claims, contact us today to discuss how the law applies. We can explain your rights and legal options today. Our founder Richard Gannt is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist with more than 20 years of experience, which he can leverage for you to help you in your situation. Call 919-518-9540 today or complete our online form to set up an initial consultation.

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