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Alienation of Affection / Criminal Conversation

At Marshall & Taylor PLLC we have experience in several types of marital and extramarital affairs, and the related legal claims that can occur during the process of a divorce. In Raleigh, North Carolina there are very specific legal actions that may be taken, not only against an unfaithful spouse, but against the partner(s) of that spouse.

Criminal conversation is a civil lawsuit based on sexual intercourse between a spouse and the defendant in such a lawsuit, where the plaintiff is the other spouse. Criminal conversation is a “strict liability tort,” meaning that the defendant is responsible for the damages caused by his or her actions regardless of fault or intent.

Alienation of affection is a claim that must prove that a third party lover acted maliciously to cause, or contribute to, the loss of affection that existed in a loving marriage.

Criminal Conversation in North Carolina

A claim for criminal conversation need only prove: that there was an act of intercourse; that there was, at the time, a valid marriage between the plaintiff and the partner of the defendant; and that the lawsuit is presented within the applicable NC statute of limitations, which is three years.

The defendant in a case for criminal conversation has no defense available, provided that the plaintiff can prove the validity of the marriage, and the act of intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse. The following arguments, though common, are not valid defense arguments:

  • The defendant was not aware that the partner was married.
  • The offending spouse consented to the sexual intercourse.
  • The defendant was seduced by the spouse in question.
  • The marriage in question was an unhappy one.
  • The sex act did not otherwise harm, or impact the marriage relationship.
  • The offending spouse was mistreated, or abused by the plaintiff.
  • The plaintiff was also unfaithful.
  • The fact that the plaintiff consented to the intercourse between the defendant and the plaintiff’s spouse may be a defense, if the defendant can prove that this approval pre-dated the sex act. This would result in a defense of connivance.

Alienation of Affection in North Carolina

In a North Carolina claim for alienation of affection the plaintiff must prove that the malicious conduct of the defendant caused the loss of affection in a marriage. In order to prove the claim there must exist a marriage that entails love between the spouses, and that love must be alienated and destroyed by the malicious conduct of the defendant. It is not necessary to prove that the destruction of the marital relationship was pre-meditated, but that the defendant intentionally engaged in acts which would have negative impact on the marriage.

The defendant, in a NC claim for alienation of affection, has in his or her defense, if it can be shown, that he or she did not know that the object of his or her affections was married. In the event that the defendant’s conduct was inadvertent and unintentional, then the plaintiff would be unable to prove that the action was malicious. Prior marital problems do not establish a defense for the alienation of affection, unless the spouses had reached the point of negating the love between them.

North Carolina is one of only seven states that continues to recognize both alienation of affection and criminal conversation. If you have any questions about these extramarital legal claims, or if you think that you may have a case to present, please contact us at (919) 833-1040 so we can help you determine the best course of action for your alienation of affection case in Raleigh, or your criminal conversation claim in Wake County.