Having a relationship with a married man or woman in the Tar Heel state can do more than damage your personal life—it can wreck your financial life as well.
North Carolina is one of just seven states that recognizes the common law tort of alienation of affection and criminal conversation. While many attorneys and lawmakers consider such an action archaic, the North Carolina legislature has consistently rejected efforts to abolish it. Alienation of affection laws are allowed in North Carolina to “preserve the sanctity of marriage and the institution of family.” Approximately 200 alienation of affection lawsuits are filed each year in North Carolina.
The Impact of “Alienation of Affection”
What does alienation of affection mean? If you are having an affair with someone who is married or you are married and are having an affair with a third party, what you are doing is not only illegal, but can also make settling your divorce case very difficult. The term criminal conversation means sexual intercourse took place between the married person and the third party.
At a minimum, the threat of litigation via an alienation of affection suit can be used to gain advantage in an ongoing divorce case. Often one side in a divorce case will “pay off “ a potential alienation of affection claim by giving more than fifty percent of the property (an unequal distribution under equitable distribution) in order to get what is called a release of third party claims.
To be sued for alienation of affection, the law requires that:
- You knew the individual was married.
- The individual had a “good marriage.”
- You actively pursued that individual.
It should be noted that the legal standard for a “good marriage” is very low.
In 2011, a Wake County judge awarded the largest recorded verdict for alienation of affection in North Carolina. Carol Puryear, who had been married to her husband for fifteen years, was awarded a total of $30 million in punitive and compensatory damages from Betty Devin, her husband’s mistress.
Adultery in North Carolina can definitely be costly in many ways!