As this blog has discussed previously, heart balm claims are still alive and well in North Carolina. To review, in this state, one party to a marriage can sue someone outside the marriage for either having sexual relations with one’s spouse or, as is more common, simply acting in such a way that breaks the marriage up.
The latter situation can give rise to an alienation of affection claim. With this type of lawsuit, a person who was enjoying a happy marriage can sue a so-called home wrecker for emotional damages resulting from the third party’s interference. Perhaps in part for this very reason, however, Charlotte residents who have been involved in an affair are often mum about their activities.
What this means is that someone who wants to pursue an alienation of affection case is going to have to prove that a third party was actually interfering with the plaintiff’s marital relationship. Fortunately, at least for alienation of affection claims, a plaintiff need not prove that sexual conduct was involved; an emotional affair is enough to prove the tort.
In fact, in some cases, a person may have a valid claim even against others who may have interfered with their marriage in non-romantic ways, such as in-laws or even professionals who encouraged a divorce.
Moreover, like other torts, alienation of affection is subject to a burden of proof that is not as strict as, for example, that of a criminal case. A judge or jury hearing a claim need not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that an affair occurred.
Still, because they can be difficult to prove, handling heart balm claims will often require the knowledge and experience of a North Carolina family law attorney.