Alienation of affection is a specific (and controversial) type of tort lawsuit, in which a spouse sues a "third party" the spouse feels is responsible for the break-up of a marriage. While alienation of affection suits usually target lovers, there have been cases involving family members, therapists, and even clergy. Though alienation-of-affection lawsuits have been banned in 35 states (and in Washington D.C.), suits are still common in Mississippi and North Carolina.
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Things you need
Get a lawyer. Alienation of affection claimants must satisfy a whole series of conditions (see steps below) in order to successfully prove their case. A lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and evidence, then use it to maximum affect.
Prove that a love relationship existed between you and your spouse. Supporting evidence could be include love letters or cell phone text messages. Such evidence is the most basic requirement of every alienation-of-affection suit, so it will help to have an overwhelming amount -- preferably dating to a time prior to the defendant's involvement.
Show that marital harmony was destroyed. If you or your spouse has moved out of a shared home, or if you have filed for divorce or legal separation, it will prove that your love relationship no longer exists in its previous form. Again, gather as much evidence as possible.
Demonstrate that the defendant maliciously affected your relationship. "Maliciously" does not necessarily mean "cruelly," or even "with intent to destroy." In legal terms, it means that the person knew acting a certain way would have a negative impact on your relationship, but went through with it anyway.
How To Win an Alienation of Affection Suit
As with the above steps, get a lawyer. The lawyer's knowledge will prove invaluable as you work to disprove the conditions described above.
Prove that no love relationship existed between the claimant and his spouse. Obviously, "marriage" and "love" are not the same thing. If he and his spouse were cold to one another and emotionally uninvolved, you will probably be able to produce witnesses who will testify to as much.
Demonstrate that your behaviour had no significant effect on the marriage. If the claimant and her spouse were living separately, for example, and you then started seeing her romantically, her spouse will have a difficult time proving that any marital harmony was destroyed.
Show that you had no malicious intent by proving you did not know your behaviour would negatively affect the relationship. If you are a clergyman or therapist, for example, you can argue that it is your responsibility to provide objective advice, or that you had no specific knowledge that your advice would lead to the marriage's dissolution.
How To Defend Against an Alienation of Affection Suit
Tips and warnings
- Check to make sure your state allows alienation-of-affection lawsuits before you try to file one. (See Resources below.)
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