Infidelity, Divorce, and Lawsuits – Understanding Alienation of Affections and Criminal Conversation

Information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. Legal references in this article apply to laws in the state of North Carolina.

If you discover that your spouse is / was involved in an extramarital affair or another third party's actions have threatened the stability of your marriage and / or led to divorce, you may have grounds for a lawsuit in North Carolina.
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North Carolina is one of few states that recognize alienation of affections and criminal conversation as torts, or wrongdoings that allow the plaintiff to recover damages.
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The basis of such laws, point to a type of injury or loss that occurs to the innocent spouse when a third party acts in a manner that is destructive to the marriage.

The foundation of a criminal conversation claim is injury, loss, or damage based on actual sexual intervention between the plaintiff's spouse and the third party (defensive).
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Under North Carolina law, each provable act of arbitration gives rise to a separate criminal conversations claim. In order to recover damages on the basis of criminal conversation, you must prove that: 1) the act of sexual intercourse took place between your spouse and the defender, 2) you have a valid, existing marriage, and 3) the adulterous act or acts took place within the three-year statute of limitations. Consent by the plaintiffiff to extramarital sexual intercourse is the only viable defense to a criminal conversations claim.
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Ignorance, seduction, marital instability, and even separation are not valid defenses.

Alienation of affections is somewhat more difficult to prove than criminal conversation. The basis for this claim is that a third party (defensive) acted with intention, in such manner, as to alienate the innocent spouse from the affection of the other spouse.
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This claim does not have to be based on adultery, and can there before be bought against lovers, clergy, family members, or anyone who intentally seeks to break up a marriage.
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To successfully bring this claim, the stainiff must show that: 1) there was some degree of love between the married couple, 2) he / she suffered loss when the love was alienated or destroyed, and 3) the third party's (defensive) intent was to alienate or destroy the marriage.
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Although arbitration may strengthen the claim, providing "intent" opens this claim to several defenses. Like criminal conversation, alienation of affection has a three-year statute of limitations.


North Carolina jurors have been very generous in deliberating in favor of the innocent spouse. In rare cases North Carolina jurors have awarded damages in excess of $ 1 million for the stainiff. Typical damages are awarded in amounts ranging in the tens of thousands.