North Carolina Is One of Six States With ‘Homewrecker Law’

If you want to sue the person who you believe broke up your marriage, it’s still possible to do so in North Carolina and five other states — Utah, South Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico and Hawaii.

The claim for “alienation of affection” has existed since the 18th century in England and is reportedly based on the notion that a man owns his wife’s affection and holds the people who stole it legally responsible.

North Carolina man awarded damages in homewrecker case

In August, a Pitt County judge ordered a man to pay $750,000 to the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair. The husband, Robert Howard, sued Greg Jernigan for criminal conversation and alienation of affection, according to the Washington Post.

Howard told TV station WITN that he took action because he felt it was important to remind people of the sanctity of marriage, especially in a day and age when people question the morals of others as well as their integrity.

Potential problems with the law

Most states have removed homewrecker laws from their books. The Kentucky State Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that a person can’t own affection between spouses. However, it remains an option for civil complaints in six states.

Family law attorneys can outline the pros and cons of what can be a very complicated and costly claim, which can have long-term effects on families by making sensitive marital details public. The Post reports that most of the cases like Howard’s are settled out of court.

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