North Carolina Superior Court Judge Rules Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation Unconstitutional
A Forsyth County Superior Court Judge, John O. Craig, III, issued a June 11, 2014 Order that finds North Carolina’s tort laws of Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation are unconstitutional, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the corresponding provisions of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina. It is believed this is the first successful constitutional challenge of these long-standing laws.
North Carolina is one of six states which still recognize “heart balm” laws of Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation. Under these torts, a husband or wife may sue a third party for contributing to the demise of their marriage. Such lawsuits are generally filed against a spouse’s adulterous partner but have also been filed against in-laws or other third-parties. Alienation of Affection lawsuits can have large verdicts, as recently as 2010 a woman won a $9 million dollar verdict against her husband’s mistress.
Unless the North Carolina Legislature changes the existing laws, the question or whether or not Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation claims are unconstitutional will remain in controversial until Judge Craig’s decision is addressed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals or even the North Carolina Supreme Court.