Monday, December 25, 2006

Affection thieves & alienation of affaction laws

People who don’t watch sports on holidays sometimes engage in heated debates about social issues and then wonder how people who grew-up in the same house can have such different views of morality and the law!

Today’s topic was the North Carolina alienation of affection laws.

Under the alienation of affection law, the wronged ex-spouse can sue the person who caused their divorce, sometimes collecting millions of dollars in damages from the homewreaker! Let’s take a closer look:

Proponents say that the purpose of the alienation of affection laws is to provide a moral compass for citizens, and just like people are fined for littering, people who break-up marriages should be fined for their immoral acts.

They say that “homewreckers” destroy the families that they leave behind, and many children are traumatized for life when they learn that their beloved Mom is really a nasty floozy who showed her naughty bits to a guy other than Dad.

Only seven states have alienation of affection laws, but many people are clamoring for this type of justice. They argue that if a floozy causes their spouse to divorce them, the floozy should pay, especially if the husband is wealthy, leaving the ex-spouse without her lavish lifestyle.

This article says that North Carolina juries have handed out big awards in Alienation of Affection cases.

“In 2001, a Greensboro jury awarded $2 million to the Plaintiff. Another jury awarded $1.2 million in 1997 in a Forsyth County case. Other awards include $1 million to an Alamance County woman, $243,000 to a Wake County man, and $40,000 to a Durham County man whose wife allegedly ran off with another man.”

The enlightened States that allow lawsuits for alienation of affection laws include Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota and Utah, but many other States are considering enacting legislation to punish homewreckers.

The central question is whether society should punish those to disregard the sanctity of marriage and heap financial and emotional hardship on the spouse and children who are left behind?

This NEWSWEEK article titled “Heartbreak's Revenge notes that the adulterous spouse may have to pay-up large sums for being a home wreaker:

“Although alienation of affection is rarely invoked in most states, a series of high-profile judgments in North Carolina, including one in 2001 for $2 million, have inspired more than 200 suits annually in recent years. Lawyers say people typically file these claims as leverage in divorce and custody disputes. "A wife says I'm going to sue your girlfriend if you don't give me $50,000 more in property settlement.”

Alienation of affection is not just stealing the affection

It's not always the girlfriend of the adulterer who must pay for alienation of affection. This article notes that alienation of affection awards are for the emotional harm caused by a third party to the marital relationship.

“These lawsuits for “alienation of affection” and/or “criminal conversation” are usually brought by the innocent spouse against the guilty spouse’s lover; but an alienation action may also be brought against someone like an in-law or other near relative who has advised a defecting spouse to leave the marital relationship.”

Let’s assume that “Amy” (the local gossip), convinces her friend “Joyce”, a housewife who relies on her rich husband “Drewell” for her income and fancy lifestyle. Amy goes on long tirades about how Joyce deserves better, and say that Joyce should dump her no-good lowbrow husband. Joyce is convinced and sues for divorce. Under NC alienation of affection statutes, Joyce is entitled to a big financial award!

Many applaud the alienation of affection laws for their ability to allow a wronged person the right to seek revenge and justice, while others call alienation of affection archaic. However, nobody can deny that alimony does not adequately compensate the victim of a homewreaker for their lifetime of reduced household earnings.

This NEWSWEEK article titled “Heartbreak's Revenge”, they show testimonials about how the alienation of affection laws bring justice by punishing the home wreaker for her adulterous ways:

“For Berg, holding someone accountable for the destruction of his marriage was the point. "I loved my wife more than anything in the entire world," he says. The law did its job”

Ancient laws on cheating & adultery?

Many folks criticize these laws because they are ancient (like "thou shall not kill"), and sure enough, many of these laws have their origin in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy, we see these prohibitions, right next to Pythonism (the act of seeking-out fortune tellers, derived from the word “Pythian”, the Satanic Oracle of Delphi.

This article says that in cultures which follow religous law, adulterers are routinely stoned, but drug usage should not be a factor in punishing immoral behavior:

A criminal Conversation?

The wording of these ancient laws is strange, and they use the Victorian term "criminal conversation" to mean adultery!

It will be interesting to see how this turns out . . . .