If your spouse has stepped outside of your marriage with another lover, it’s natural to feel a roller coaster of emotions. You may become angry, depressed, embarrassed, and/or broken-hearted.
However, you may also have feelings of wanting to seek revenge, or the need to feel that some justice has been done as a result of the pain you have been caused.
While some husbands and wives have been known to sue their cheating spouse in divorce proceedings, a rather fascinating case recently caught our attention and begs the question:
Can I sue my spouse’s lover?
According to court documents, the couple from North Carolina were married in 2005 and were happily married for 12-years. The wife eventually sought a divorce, claiming the husband spent too much time at work. The couple attempted marriage counselling, but the husband grew suspicious and hired a private investigator who learned that the wife was having an affair with a work colleague. Having learned of the infidelity, the husband confronted his wife and they finalized their divorce in September 2018.
Hear from the husband, Kevin Howard, here:
The husband launched a civil claim alleging the tort of Alienation of Affection, also sometimes known as the ‘homewrecker law’ in the United States.
Under North Carolina state law, the tort of Alienation of Affection permits a spouse to sue the person who interfered with their marriage and caused a “loss of affection from the other spouse”.
To have a chance at success with these types of lawsuits, the cheated-on spouse must show the couple was happy before the lover came between them.
The cheated-on spouse must essentially show that it was the lover that caused the downfall of the relationship.
Unlike Ontario, North Carolina’s law makes it illegal to cheat with someone who is married and to cause their divorce. The law is derived from the old English common law from the 17th century when women were considered the property of their husbands, stated Suzanne Reynolds of Wake Forest University School of Law.
Similar laws have been struck down in Kentucky and other states, but the law has been upheld in North Carolina and more than 200 cases are filed under this tort every year.
The husband alleged his wife’s lover’s actions “alienated and destroyed” his marriage, and that the lover should have known that his actions would cause harm and damage.
The husband said the wife’s lover and colleague had dinner with the family several times, and in fact, that the husband considered him a friend.
In August 2019, a North Carolina judge ruled in the husband’s favor, and awarded him $750,000 in damages for the Alienation of Affection tort claim.
The lawyer who represented the ex-husband, Cynthia Mills, has represented other client’s in similar tort cases.
In 2010, Cynthia Mills, succeeded in a separate Alienation of Affection tort claim and got a $5.9 million-dollar judgement awarded for her client.
A different attorney who also handles these cases, Joanne Foil, was successful in getting an $8.8 million-dollar judgement for the tort of Alienation of Affection.
Ms. Mills states that these lawsuits are not about the money but are a matter of principle about the sacredness of marriage. Ms. Mills says these cases are analogous to personal injury cases, where a wronged party gets damages if someone hurts them.
The husband similarly said this was not about the money, but about protecting the sanctity of his marriage.
In some states, adultery is still illegal and can result in large judgements for the wronged party.
In Ontario, adultery is not illegal, and it has little to no impact on family law proceedings.
Lawyers have a difference of opinions on whether this Alienation of Affection law should be repealed or enacted. For more information about the divorce laws that exist in Ontario, Canada, contact Epstein & Associates today.