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“Heart Balm” Torts:

Alienation & Criminal Conversation 

Alienation of Affection

This type of lawsuit is known as a tort (i.e., a wrongful civil act, not a wrongful criminal act). Although many states have abolished this type of claim, North Carolina still recognizes it, as do several other states. Alienation cases filed by a spouse against a third-party for money damages, alleging he or she was the cause of a broken marriage.

In other words, the third-party alienated someone’s spouse from him or her. Although any type of third-party may fit into this category, these cases are almost always filed against the alleged lover of a spouse.  The amount of money damages awarded to successful plaintiffs is hard to predict. The jury takes into account the nature of the behavior at issue, on a case by case basis.

Criminal Conversation

When an alienation case is filed, there are other tort claims that may also be filed, such as criminal conversation. Unlike alienation cases, criminal conversation cases only require an act of adultery. There is no requirement that a spouse suffer a broken marriage or be alienated. Instead, criminal conversation may be proven based only on the act of adultery.






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