A jilted husband utilized a little-known North Carolina law to sue his ex-wife's boyfriend -- and won a judgment of more than $8 million for alienation of affection.
Alienation of affection lawsuits are only permitted in a handful of states. In order to pursue one, you have to prove several things:
- You once had a happy marriage with genuine affection.
- The affection and love in your marriage were destroyed ("alienated") by another person.
- You were damaged in some way as a result.
An affair isn't necessarily central to the issue. While an extramarital affair might have something to do with the alienation of affection, a lover isn't the only person who could be accused of destroying a marriage. Lawsuits for alienation of affection can be brought against a parent, a therapist or others.
Proving that your marriage was destroyed by another person is often a difficult hurdle. In the recent North Carolina case, the jilted husband was able to show that his wife -- who was also his employee -- met the defendant on a business trip. After that, despite pleas from the husband to back off, the defendant continued to pursue the wife. He even rented a place near the couple's home and followed them during family trips.
In the end, despite the defense's assertion that the marriage was already on life support, the court agreed with the plaintiff.
This isn't the first case that has won national attention after a verdict -- nor is it the first multi-million dollar verdict. While most jilted spouses are content to simply divorce and move on, others feel like it's appropriate to hold the intruder that disrupted their marriage accountable. In this case, the motive for the lawsuit may have been partially due to the damage that the husband's business suffered as a result of his divorce.
Cases like this illustrate the complex realities of family legal issues. While divorces are seldom simple, those involving business owners and third-party intrusion can be exceptionally trying on everyone involved. It pays to have good legal advice every step of the way -- especially if you want to avoid financially-disastrous results.