Our attorneys have successfully prosecuted and defended numerous alienation of affections and criminal conversation cases and have developed a reputation as a premier law firm in this area. Many people are confused about what these cases involve, and a brief summary of these causes of action are provided below.
A lawsuit for Criminal Conversation in North Carolina can be filed by any person (Plaintiff) against another individual (Defendant) who has engaged in sexual intercourse with the Plaintiff’s spouse. In order to prove a case of criminal conversation, the Plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with the Plaintiff’s spouse, during a time that a valid legal marriage existed between the Plaintiff and the spouse. Any lawsuit must be brought with the applicable statute of limitations. Our law firm won a case at the trial level in Stanley County, and our verdict was subsequently affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court, where we successfully argued that the law at the time provided that a Plaintiff could file a lawsuit within three years of the time that they learned of the conduct, rather than the time that the conduct actually occurred. Partially in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case, the North Carolina legislature passed a specific statute addressing the statute of limitations in criminal conversation and alienation of affections cases. As of October 1, 2009, an action for alienation of affection or criminal conversation must be commenced no more than three years from the last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action. These cases are typically tried by a jury and the damages awarded, if any, are in the discretion of the jury, subject to the instructions given by the judge. Punitive damages may also be available to a Plaintiff in criminal conversation cases, and as the law currently exists, proving the sexual intercourse between the Defendant and the Plaintiff’s spouse, during the marriage and prior to the date of separation, automatically allows the Plaintiff to argue to the jury that punitive damages should be awarded.
Alienation of Affection
Unlike criminal conversation claims, a Plaintiff in an alienation of affection case is not required to prove sexual intercourse between the Defendant and the Plaintiff’s spouse. In order to successfully prove a case for alienation of affection, the plaintiff has to show that (1) the marriage between the Plaintiff and his or her spouse contained some degree of love and affection (it does not have to be a perfect marriage); (2) this genuine love and affection was alienated and destroyed; and (3) defendant’s malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection. Like criminal conversation cases, these claims must also be filed within the applicable statute of limitations.