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What are Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation?

There are four traditional “heart balm torts” that are now only recognized by a handful of states: alienation of affection, criminal conversation, seduction, and breach of promise to marry.

North Carolina is one of seven states that still allows claims for alienation of affection. Alienation of affection laws in this state allow a betrayed spouse to sue a paramour for willfully and maliciously interfering in the couple’s marriage.

A spouse who files an alienation of affection action is asserting that he or she has lost the protected marital right of the affection, society, companionship, and assistance of the other spouse.

Alienation of affection lawsuits are not limited to physical or sexual affairs; rather, these suits can also arise in response to an emotional or online affair.

Another heart balm tort, called criminal conversation, is much easier to prove and is often combined with an alienation of affection claim, although they are two distinctly different torts.

Criminal conversation is a tort action for adultery based upon a violation of the fundamental right to exclusive sexual intercourse between spouses.

Wronged spouses who are interested in pursuing a claim for alienation of affection, and/or criminal conversation, should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can offer advice regarding how to proceed with the desired litigation.