Limiting Laws that Protect Marriages
Special Report - July 9, 2009
On July 7, the N.C. Senate passed HB 1110Clarify/Alienation of Affection/Criminal Conversation, which limits the application of these two centuries-old laws designed to protect marriages from harmful acts by third parties and to provide legal remedies if those acts do occur. Under alienation of affections, an aggrieved spouse can sue a third party whose wrongful and malicious acts bring about the loss and alienation of the love and affection of their spouse. Under criminal conversation, an aggrieved spouse can sue a third party who commits adultery with their husband or wife. With this bill, these legal actions can only be based on acts that occur prior to the separation of the married couple.
Senators split 23-23 in a vote on a proposed amendment that would have extended the time for qualifying wrongful acts to occur up to the date of separation plus 120 days. The amendment was defeated when Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, President of the Senate, cast a tie-breaking no vote. The bill then passed by a 32-14 vote and was sent back to the House for concurrence on this edition of the bill, which includes Senate committee changes that gave more detail to the definition of separation.
HB 1110 also states that these civil actions can only be brought against natural persons (not corporations), and that they cannot be commenced more than three years after the last act of the third party giving rise to the cause of action.
“It is good that these laws still apply to wrongful acts by a third party that occur prior to the separation of a married couple,” said Jere Royall, counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “However, it is tragic that an aggrieved spouse can no longer hold a third party legally accountable for acts of adultery that occur after separation, as the spouses are still married until a divorce is finalized.”
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.