North Carolina is one of a select number of states in the United States that allows a spouse who has been cheated on to sue their spouse’s lover (commonly referred to as a paramour) for alienation of affection.  Alienation of affection is essentially a lawsuit alleging that you and your spouse were happy before the affair, and that the lover destroyed the marriage or “alienated” the affection from your marriage.

Alienation does not have to based on a sexual relationship.  Alienation of affection can also occur when a spouse’s affection is alienated by a family member of a friend– it is not limited to a “romantic relationship” but only requires that defendant was the cause of the spouse’s loss of affection with the other spouse.  A successful alienation of affection suit can result in financial compensation.

To establish claim for alienation of affections, a wronged spouse must prove:

  • The spouses were happily married, and a genuine love and affection existed between them;
  • That the love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and
  • That the wrongful and malicious acts of the defendant (i.e., the lover) produced and brought about the loss and alienation of such love and affection (i.e., destroyed the marriage).

Destroying someone’s marriage is a very expensive thing to do.  In fact, in 2011, a North Carolina judge ordered a mistress to pay a wife $30 million for alienating the affection of her husband.  Last year, a man who caught his wife cheating successfully got a judgment of $8.8 million against his wife’s lover.  In October of 2019, a man in Pitt County, North Carolina won a judgment of $750,000.00 against his wife’s paramour.  While these judgments are rare, it is simply not a risk worth taking.

If you are getting a divorce because your spouse cheated, you should speak to a family law attorney to see if you can establish the grounds for an alienation of affections claim.

Related Resources: What is Illicit Sexual Behavior?  What is Marital Misconduct? Difference between Postseparation Support and Alimony