Alienation of affection law must go
In her new book “What Happened”, Hillary Clinton blames a variety of people for her loss to Donald Trump. She blames Trump, saying he is sexist. She blames James Comey and the FBI. She blames Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and of course, she blames the Russians. OK, so what would happen if next week, Hillary filed suit against the aforementioned culprits, as well as 60 million other people who didn’t vote for her? What if her lawsuit claimed that those people stole the election from her, along with her rightful prize, the White House? I’m certain that no court would even hear her motion. Why? Because that kind of finger-pointing and blame game has no merit. No one stole anything from her, so she should just move on. Sounds logical, except that each year in America, thousands of women are allowed to litigate something just as absurd. It’s called “Alienation of Affection”.
Alienation of Affection is an antiquated law that is still legal in seven states: Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and our beloved North Carolina. In fact, here in the old North State, it is estimated that 200 AOA lawsuits are filed each year. So what is Alienation of Affection? Simply put, it is a law that allows a wife to sue her spouse’s lover for breaking up her marriage and stealing her husband.
Earlier in September, North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Alienation of Affection, in a Forsyth County case involving a married physician and his mistress. That ruling paves the way for the aggrieved wife to collect mega bucks from her husband’s lover. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. In March of 2010, ABC News reported that a North Carolina wife was awarded $9 million dollars in a suit against her hubby’s mistress. That same year, according to MailOnline, a wife prevailed in court against her best friend, who she said had seduced her husband. Then there was the Burke County case in which, according to RiceLaw, the wronged wife was awarded $1 million dollars because she said her husband’s secretary dressed provocatively at work, resulting in an affair that destroyed her marriage.
Prior to 2009, North Carolina wives could claim Alienation of Affection even after separating from their husband, but the old law was amended to limit such claims to those occurring pre-separation. I suppose that was some small consolation, yet still, the entire law should be stricken from the books. Aside from being outdated, the existing AOA laws in North Carolina allow the accusing wife to make her case on less burden of proof that she would have to do in a simple defamation case. According to MyFamilyLaw.com, a spouse only has to prove three things: that love existed between the married spouses; that love between the married couple was destroyed (alienated); and that a third party’s malicious conduct contributed to the loss of affection. The problem is that jury awards are often made based upon the wife’s feelings and testimony rather than hard facts. Even so, who cares if a husband had an affair. If that’s the case, then let his wife take him to the cleaners in divorce court. But allowing an angry wife to collect millions of dollars from a mistress is just plain wrong. Alienation of Affection law essentially condones extortion and accepts the premise that a lover can steal someone’s husband.
In justifying its ruling last week, the Court said, “…a broken marriage can mean the loss of all the benefits that a healthy marriage brings to society. The State has a legitimate interest in protecting the institution of marriage, ensuring that married couples honor their vows, and deterring conduct that would cause injury to one of the spouses.” News flash, it’s not Big Brother’s job to maintain or sustain marital relationships.
The North Carolina General Assembly needs to join the 21st century, and recognize that no one can steal a spouse from someone else. It is preposterous to believe otherwise. The Alienation of Affection law, therefore, must be repealed. Until then, if some young guy steals my wife, I’m going to sue him, the Russians and Bernie Sanders. I’ll make them all pay, and the court will see to it that they do.
Jim Longworth is host of Triad Today which airs Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on abc45 and Sundays at 11 a.m. on MY48