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Pros and cons of Alienation of Affection

Alienation of affection is a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage. The defendant in an alienation of affections suit is typically an adulterous spouse’s lover.  However, counselors, therapists, clergy members, and other relatives (such as in-laws) who have encouraged or created an opportunity for divorce have also been sued for alienation of affections.

The cause of action has been abolished by all states except Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah.

An alienation claim is difficult to prove.  To succeed on an alienation claim, the plaintiff has to show that (1) the marriage entailed love between the spouses in some degree; (2) the spousal love was alienated and destroyed; and (3) defendant’s malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection.

Alienation of affection lawsuits are sometimes referred to as the “rich folks” cause of action because it costs money to hire an attorney to bring this action.  Also, the defendant in such an action is often rich because the sole remedy for this cause of action is money.

Those in favor of alienation of affection laws are usually folks who are pro-family values.  They believe that it is important that society retain this cause of action because it protects the supremacy of the institution of marriage from those who dare to intrude.

Even where the wronged spouse receives a judgment against the third-party, and that person has no money to satisfy the judgment, the revenge the wronged spouse receives from dragging the third-party into court and laying bare the intimate details of that person’s life for all the world to see is the ultimate satisfaction.

Critics of alienation of affection laws say that these laws are an obsolete method for legislating morality.  They also say that such laws are unfair because they unfairly punish only one of the wrongdoers involved in the infidelity.  Opponents also say that such suits can be misused by embittered spouses whose only aim is to seek vengeance against a third-party interferer, and that they create an opportunity for the wronged spouse to blackmail the interferer.

Whether you are for or against alienation of affection laws, one thing is certain, the publicity these lawsuits generate has a chilling effect that will cause many potential plaintiffs to give up their right to sue, and cause many potential defendants to settle so that the details of their private lives are not seen on headlines news.

Lawsuits such as this one were made for arbitration.  Arbitration is a fast and easy way to settle disputes.  With arbitration, the parties do not waste hours and days waiting for an available court part or Judge.  Once both parties agree to arbitration, they select an arbitrator, and then the case can be heard the next day as long as all parties are available.

Also, with arbitration, attorney fees are less than they would be with litigation.  This is because the parties are not at the mercy of a Judge who has to manage the court’s daily calendar.  The less time your attorney spends waiting for your case to be called in court, the less fees you pay.

The main reason why arbitration is the best way to reach a legally binding decision on an alienation of affection lawsuit is that arbitration is private and confidential.  The media is not allowed in the arbitration unless the parties agree.  In addition, the record of the hearing is never filed in court, so any judgment, settlement or other resolution will not be seen by prying eyes.

If you are faced with a lawsuit, contemplating initiating one, or starting a business and would like to put an arbitration clause in all of your contracts, please visit

http://w-phillips.com and gain access to 13 years of experience in dispute resolution.

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One Response

  1. [...] Filed under: Current Events, Legal Advice, Politics, Social Issues, legal | Tagged: Alienation of Affection, Andrew Young, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards, Rielle Hunter « Pros and cons of Alienation of Affection [...]

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