Couples divorce for many reasons. Both people may want out of the relationship, or one partner might want to end the marriage, while the other partner wishes they could work things out. Additionally, there may be a third party involved in the relationship that causes the divorce to happen.
In a few states, including North Carolina, a spouse can take legal action against this third-party who initially drove a wedge between the two spouses. This legal action is known as a heart balm claim.
Types of heart balm claims
North Carolina acknowledges two different types of heart balm claims. The first type of claim is alienation of affection. With this claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the actions you took split up a loving and genuine marriage.
The second type of heart balm claim is criminal conversation. This tort requires the plaintiff to prove that you had sexual intercourse with the other spouse whether they were married or separated at the time the incident occurred.
Defending an alienation of affection claim
Compared to a criminal conversation tort, an alienation of affection claim may be easier to defend against. The plaintiff will need to prove their marriage was happy before your alleged actions took place. Some legal defenses include:
- Stating there was no affection or love in the marriage
- Evidence of fighting or prior separations between the spouses
- Having no knowledge that the two spouses were married
- Claiming the statute of limitations has expired
Criminal conversation defenses
The plaintiff needs to introduce evidence that sexual intercourse may have taken place outside of the marriage. Also, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the marriage was a happy one. One legal defense against this claim is showing evidence that the married spouses were separated when the alleged incident took place. Another defense tactic is claiming that the statute of limitations has expired, if that is the case.
If you are defending yourself in a heart balm case, it may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced family law attorney. Heart balm cases can be complicated, and your attorney may be able to help you gather evidence to strengthen your defense.