Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation

In North Carolina, a party may sue an individual who has caused a married person to suffer the loss of affection of his or her spouse, or for adultery within the marriage. These are often thought of as lawsuits against the paramour.

In order to have a claim for criminal conversation, the following must be found:

  1. A valid marriage between the spouses; and
  2. A sexual relation with intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse during the marriage.

If the relationship occurs after the parties separate, there is no claim for criminal conversation. However, this conduct can be used as circumstantial evidence as to what may have occurred prior to the parties’ separation.

This differs from the claim for alienation of affections. In order to have a claim for alienation of affections, the following must be found:

  1. A valid marriage between the spouses.
  2. Genuine love and affection existed between the spouses. This does not mean a perfect marriage—this need only be some showing of love and affection.
  3. That love and affection existing was alienated and destroyed.
  4. The wrongful and malicious acts of the defendant caused the loss and alienation of such love and affection.

Unlike criminal conversation, an alienation of affections lawsuit need not be against a paramour, but instead can be against a family member—mother-in law, father-in law, etc. Typically, this is going to develop from a series of wrongful acts that occur over a period of time, as opposed to a criminal conversation lawsuit, which need only occur on one occasion.

It is interesting to note that N.C.G.S. §52-13 does not allow for a criminal conversation or alienation of affections lawsuit if the conduct has only occurred after the date of separation. The key here is to go back to determine whether or not the post-separation conduct can be corroborating evidence to show that such conduct may have occurred prior to the parties’ separation. Finally, the statute of limitations on these lawsuits is three years from the date of the last act, meaning a party has three years to bring the lawsuit from that last “incident” that occurred.

At Rech Law, P.C. we can help you to understand the process of alienation of affections and criminal conversation, both if you are the party pursuing such a claim or, alternatively, if you are the party defending it.