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Quick Facts on Alienation of Affections & Criminal Conversation

Alienation of Affections is a civil action by a husband or wife against a third party for that party's conduct which deprived the husband or wife filing the action of the love and affection that previously existed between husband/wife and his/her spouse. The party bringing the suit does not have to show evidence of adultery.

Generally, the requirements for a claim of Alienation of Affections are:

  • Plaintiff and his or her spouse were happily married and a genuine love and affection existed between them;
  • Defendant's actions were a contributing factor that caused Plaintiff's spouse to alienate his or her affections from Plaintiff;
  • Defendant was aware that his or her actions would likely cause Plaintiff's spouse to alienate his or her affections from Plaintiff;
  • For Compensatory Damages: Defendant's conduct proximately resulted in Plaintiff's loss of services in the home, loss of support, including present and future earnings of his or her spouse, loss of consortium (sexual relations),emotional distress (and, in some cases, therapy costs and costs of prescription medication), and/or injury to Plaintiff's reputation. Compensatory damages may also include the costs of litigation, including attorney's fees for both the Alienation or Criminal conversation action or attorney's fees involving, his or her spouse if the relationship with Plaintiff's spouse ended subsequent to his or her relationship with Defendant; and
  • For Punitive Damages: Defendant's conduct was willful, malicious, wanton, and oppressive.

Defenses to Alienation of Affections

  • There was no love and affection that existed between Plaintiff and his or her spouse.
  • Condonation: a term in our law which typically means a conditional forgiveness.

Criminal Conversation is a civil action brought for adultery. It is what is called a strict liability action in that if your spouse has sexual relations with a third party, then that third party has committed Criminal Conversation and civil damages may be sought, even if you and your spouse are already separated but not divorced.

Generally, the requirements for a claim of Criminal Conversation are:

  • A third party (known as "Defendant") and Plaintiff's spouse engaged in an adulterous relationship while Plaintiff and his spouse were married;
  • For Compensatory Damages: Defendant's wrongful and malicious conduct proximately damaged Plaintiff by casting dishonor on the marriage bed, alienating the affections of Plaintiff's spouse for him or her, destroying domestic comfort, causing loss of consortium (sexual relations), loss of support, including present and future earnings of his spouse, emotional distress (and, in some cases, therapy costs and costs of prescription medication) all resulting in mental anguish and humiliation. The costs of litigation can also be included, including attorney's fees, with the Plaintiff's spouse if the relationship with Plaintiff's spouse ended subsequent to his or her relationship with Defendant; and
  • For Punitive Damages: Defendant's conduct was willful, malicious, wanton, and oppressive.

A defense specific to Criminal Conversation is connivance; occurs when one party causes or induces the other party to commit the act.

Other various counterclaims or defenses can be raised if these claims are brought against a third party lover. Some of those counterclaims or defenses are:

  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Malicious Prosecution
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Abuse of Process

Although the claims Alienation of Affections and Criminal Conversation are often paired and discussed together, the two claims can be brought separately.

Both claims are civil actions (and not criminal, despite the terms "Criminal Conversation") brought against a third party paramour, or lover.

Both claims are commonly referred to as "Heart-Balm" actions and more than half of the states have abolished them.

Both claims can be raised before or after a person and his or her spouse have separated or divorced. But, it needs to be pointed out that only criminal conversation can relate to pre or post separation.

There is a three (3) year statute of limitations on both actions. For Alienation of Affection, this begins running at the time of the loss of the affection.


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