The Legal Value of Marital Love and Affection

Six states, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah, allow lawsuits by a spurned spouse for alienation of affection. All other jurisdictions have abolished the common law tort through legislation or court decisions.

Because of the ramifications of a successful lawsuit by a jilted husband or wife, it may be wise to avoid an affair within the six states that allow the cause of action, especially North Carolina.

In 2018, a North Carolina resident brought a claim in North Carolina state court for alienation of affection against his wife’s boyfriend. The boyfriend was a Texas resident and met the wife (and husband) while they were at a conference in New York.  He spent time with the wife in North Carolina.  The boyfriend did not answer the complaint and defaulted but ultimately appeared and was allowed to present evidence at a bench trial to assess damages. The North Carolina state court, after a five-day trial, awarded the spurned husband economic damages, as well as noneconomic damages for loss of love and affection, plus an award of punitive damages, for a total judgment in the amount of $8,886,248.00.

After the North Carolina Court entered the judgment, the boyfriend filed a petition for bankruptcy in Texas and tried to discharge the judgment. The bankruptcy court found that the judgment was not dischargeable debt under bankruptcy law because it resulted from willful and malicious injury by the boyfriend-debtor.

The bankruptcy court’s decision can be viewed or downloaded through this link: COURT DECISION

Financially, the boyfriend is likely ruined. He worked for Geico, making approximately $80,000 per year. Some may believe the result is harsh, while others might argue he got what he deserved. It may depend on how one views marital infidelity.

Although most states have abolished claims for alienation of affection, it is alive and utilized in North Carolina. Suppose one is inclined to have an affair with a married person. In that case, it may be wise to avoid doing so within North Carolina’s boundaries (or Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah).

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