Heartbalm Tort Claims in North Carolina: Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation
What is a Heartbalm Claim? (Specifically, Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation)
In North Carolina, the two most popular Heartbalm Claims are alienation of affection and criminal conversation. These civil actions are largely considered to be outdated, and almost all states have stopped recognizing them as valid civil claims. In North Carolina, however, Hearbalm Claims are still alive and well. North Carolina is one of the few states that allow a party to sue an outside third party for interference with their marriage and to recover damages from that third party for claims under alienation of affection and criminal conversation.
In order party to prove criminal conversation, the plaintiff must prove that a valid marriage existed and that during that time, the defendant had voluntary sexual relations with the plaintiff’s spouse. If there is no direct evidence to prove that there were voluntary sexual relations between the defendant/paramour and the plaintiff’s spouse, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the defendant had the intent to complete the act and the opportunity to do so.
A key component of a criminal conversation claim is that the conduct must have occurred during the course of the marriage or prior to any separation of the spouses. If any of the alleged conduct occurred after separation, there can be no claim for criminal conversation. A claim for criminal conversation may only be brought against the spouse’s paramour, not the spouse. Claims may be brought against a paramour within three years of the last alleged pre-separation sexual relation.
Please note that this is a civil action. Despite the name, there is no criminal component to criminal conversation.
Alienation of Affection
While a claim for alienation of affection is generally coupled with a claim for criminal conversation, the plaintiff must prove different elements. In order to prevail in an alienation of affection claim in North Carolina, the plaintiff must prove that there was a valid marriage; that there was genuine love and affection between the couple; and that because of some wrongful or malicious conduct by the defendant, there was a loss of love or affection from the plaintiff’s spouse to the plaintiff.
Unlike a claim for criminal conversation, a claim for alienation of affection does not require any proof of sexual relations. This means that a claim for alienation of affection does not limit the defendant to being a paramour. Any third party could be a defendant in an alienation of affection claim. For example, plaintiff’s mother-in-law could be the defendant in an alienation of affection claim. Similarly to a criminal conversation claim, the alleged conduct must occur during the course of the marriage or prior to any separation of the spouses. Claims must be brought against any third party within three years from the most recent pre-separation wrongful act.
If you believe that you might be subject to one of the actions described above, please do not hesitate to give the attorneys at Gilles Law, PLLC a call to discuss your situation.
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