A woman in North Carolina probably never imagined her affair with a married man would cost much more than dinner and a movie, but it ended up costing her $30 million dollars.
Though most that have affairs with married men and women don’t get sued or fined at all, the woman was unfortunate enough to live in a state that has an alienation of affection law. This law, only valid in 7 states in the United States, allows a spouse to sue their husband/wife’s lover if they can prove that the person in question purposely and maliciously destroyed the marriage via the affair.
This can be difficult to prove considering the plaintiff has to prove that the marriage was still alive before the affair, the lover knew about the marriage, that the lover intentionally destroyed the marriage, etc. However, the spouse bringing the lawsuit usually receives something due to the lover settling out of embarrassment.
A woman featured on Dr. Phil did just this despite the fact that she had no idea her lover was married and had only spent a few days with him due to the distance between them.
Instead of the potential of having everyone know everything about her love life, she settled to keep things out of the media…..but then went on Dr. Phil ironically.
Who’s in? Adultery laws in USA
Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah are the 7 remaining states in the United States that still recognize this law. Almost every other state had the law at one point, but has since abolished it.
Many legislatures in the remaining states have tried numerous times to also abolish this law, but have failed for a variety of reasons. Politicians are afraid to back this law abolishment due to appearing to promote affairs or lack support for marriage or family values.
Also, with such a great amount of stigma with politicians and affairs, it’s no wonder why a politician wouldn’t want to look like he supported affairs in any way. Not only these things, but compared to other issues that politicians and the government faces, this isn’t really a top priority or serious issue.
Due to these reasons, such a seemingly old-fashioned law remains on the books in a few states.
While it may not seem like an important issue to worry about, those who lose the lawsuits as well as tax payers disagree. Those who lose and are required to pay feel the lawsuit is just about money and greed on the part of the bitter exes. Also, considering they weren’t the ones who broke the vows, why should they be punished?
Why isn’t the cheating spouse punished at all? This is especially important as usually it is women sued as opposed to men. Opponents of the law feel this is just another example of the double standard found in so many places in today’s world; look the other way if the man does it, but shame on the woman who does it. Think of this; if a woman cheats with a married man, she is called a home wrecker, but rarely is a man referred to as such.
Tax payers also disagree with the law as they are the ones who usually end up bearing most of the cost. In the case of the $30 million award, chances are that the wife will see very little of that money.
However, the court, judge, and other costs funded by tax dollars are due immediately; from the tax payers. Tax payers feel this money could be spent better elsewhere, such as for more serious crimes. Divorce court is a better place for this type of thing, they claim. Parties involved in the divorce pay fees that cover the court costs.
However, those in favor of keeping the law in place have equally compelling arguments. They claim that the law is the last thing in place that somewhat keeps the sanctity of marriage in the United States in place.
They claim that those who willingly break up a marriage and family should be held responsible. Sure they might not get their money, especially in the case of the $30 million dollar award, but at least there is some sort of punishment for the lover’s actions.
Proponents mostly hope that the law and successful lawsuits send a message to those considering having an affair; you could be held financially responsible in a big way for breaking up a family!