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Family Law Articles

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Alienation of Affection

North Carolina still implements “alienation of affection” and “criminal conversation” laws which allow one spouse to sue the other spouse for money based on the allegations of emotional harm to the marital relationship caused by an affair of the offending spouse with a third party, provided that the couple was married and not separated at the time that the affair occurred. These lawsuits are filed by the innocent spouse not only against the offending spouse, but can also be filed against someone, such as an in-law or a near relative, who has caused the marriage to end.


In order to obtain success in alienation of affection claim, the complainant has to show that:

(1)  the marriage entailed love between the spouses in some degree;

(2)  the spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and

(3)  the defendant’s malicious conduct has caused or has contributed to the loss of affection.

North Carolina “alienation of affection” and “criminal conversation” laws provide a three-year statute of limitations which allows the innocent spouse to file the alienation lawsuit within 3 years that the alleged offense occurred without the need to prove that the offending spouse was engaged with extra-marital sexual act.


If an alienation of affection lawsuit is filed against you, you need to defend yourself and seek the legal services of an experienced North Carolina family law attorney because it’s possible for the plaintiff to recover a significant award as demonstrated in the following three cases:

(a.) In 2010, a jury in Guilford County ordered a female paramour to pay $9,000,000 in damages to her innocent spouse.

(b.) In 2010, a Pitt County Superior Court Judge who presided over a trial without a jury awarded $5,900,000 “bench verdict” to the innocent spouse.

(c.) In 2011, the Wake County Superior Court Judge ordered a “bench verdict” of $30,000,000 in favor of the innocent wife.

If you’re planning on filing a lawsuit against someone for alienation of affection and/or criminal conversation, you need to consider the cost and the possibility of winning a large verdict. It’s worthy to note, however, that while these cases can end in large verdicts, they can make it difficult for you to peacefully proceed with your divorce case.

§ 52-13. Procedures in causes of action for alienation of affection and criminal conversation

(a) No act of the defendant shall give rise to a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation that occurs after the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s spouse physically separate with the intent of either the plaintiff or plaintiff’s spouse to make the physical separation remain permanent.

(b) An action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation shall not be commenced more than three years from the last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.

(c) A person may commence a cause of action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation against a natural person only.

Dana Wilson
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