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What is alienation of affection?

Infidelity is one of the most common factors that people cite when ending their marriages. And in this state, extramarital affairs can have serious consequences when they lead to alienation of affection claims. Currently, there are only seven states in America that allow a spouse to bring a claim for alienation of affection. These states include Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and North Carolina.

A spouse may bring an alienation of affection claim against a third-party for depriving him or her of the love and affection of the other spouse. The third-party can be any person, such as a family member, friend, coworker or therapist. However, spouses usually bring alienation of affection claims against someone who is having an affair with their spouse.

You do not necessarily need to prove your spouse engaged in a sexual relationship with the third-party. Instead, you need to prove the following three elements for an alienation of affection claim in North Carolina:

  1. You and your spouse were happily married and showed love and affection.
  2. The love and affection between you and your spouse was alienated.
  3. The third-party produced the alienation.

These elements must have occurred prior to your separation or divorce.

To prove you and your spouse were happily married, it can be helpful to provide cards, photos, and testimony from friends and family. Courts often look at texts, phone calls, emails and meetings between your spouse and the third-party in determining whether the third-party's actions lead to the demise of your relationship.

As an example of how the courts may resolve these cases, recently, a North Carolina court awarded a husband almost $9 million for an alienation of affection claim, in which he discovered his wife was having an affair from an unknown number on his phone bill.

Understand that you must make a claim for alienation of affection within three years of the last offense between your spouse and the third-party. If you believe you have a claim for alienation of affection, it is important to seek legal advice before it is too late.

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