alienation of affections

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Alienation of affections is a mostly outdated law that allows a spouse to sue an individual that causes their other spouse to end their marriage. Separate from any divorce proceedings, the spouse bringing an alienation of affections suit must show that the accused individual took steps that a reasonable person would expect and did result in the ending of the affectionate marriage between the couple. Usually, these cases involve a spouse suing someone who encouraged the other spouse to cheat during the marriage, but an alienation of affections claim can be brought based on other grounds such as someone encouraging a person to divorce their spouse. While most states outlawed the cause of action, six states still allow alienation of affections claims as of 2021 with million dollar damages being awarded in North Carolina recently. 

[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]