Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alienation of affection


I'm sure there will be some who think that this is a good idea, but thankfully "alienation of affection" is not a tort available to litigants in this country. It is, however, still allowed in North Carolina as this story in The Times today confirms, reporting the case of Cynthia Shackelford who successfully sued her husband's mistress Anne Lundquist for $9 million damages. Mrs Shackelford claimed that Ms Lundquist seduced her husband, and therefore caused the breakdown of her marriage, for which she received the damages. Mr Shackelford, on the other hand, claims that the marriage had already broken down before his relationship with Ms Lundquist.

I'm sorry, but how can you possibly compensate someone for a broken marriage? All that has happened here is that a jilted spouse has legally taken vengeance against the person she sees as responsible for the breakdown of her marriage. If the purpose of this law is to protect marriage by deterring spouses from forming relationships with others, then quite obviously it will not achieve that.

Surely, like criminal conversation, alienation of affection should be consigned to the dustbin of legal history?

5 comments:

  1. Next they'll be a return to the days when a jilted fiancée could sue for breach of contract...

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    1. I disagree when someone cheats or when the get into a relationship with a married person they should be held legally accountable. The first person broke a contract and the second engauged in reckless and malicious behavior. If you want to have relationships outside of your contract then get a divorce or don't get married. If you want an open marraige then that is not a marraige...it is dating. plain and simple! Marraige is a promise and a contract.

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    2. I would like to see alientation of affection available as recourse in the UK. Take the slut who dropped her knickers for my husband on first meeting, turned up literally everywhere he went, used no protection in an attempt to get pregnant by him and tried to persuade him for years (unsuccessfully) to leave me. Sure my husband could and should have resisted, but what she carried on was a concerted campaign to win not only my husband but also my house and my lifestyle. All the time she was registered on a dating website on the look out for other hapless men. For her it was a career choice - surely there should be some retribution available?

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  2. Absolutely.
    The other thing this flags up is that it rather neatly allows the philandering spouse to duck his responsibility (It was Eve, she gave me the apple) - if he had had any self-cotrol Ms Lundquist could have seduced for all she was worth without getting anywhere.

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  3. Without the law of alienation of affections, anyone with good seduction skills can use the divorce laws to quite legally steal money. A James Bond type seducer (or Mata Hari female equivalent) could amass a fortune from hapless families. Legislators and lawyers allow this because with every divorce settlement their profession as a whole makes vast sums of money. This is much more than they can make from the old alienation laws which, as this case shows, are very difficult to prove and therefore came to court less frequently.

    I would agree that the old commandment about coveting should contain the word "spouse" rather than "wife" but otherwise it is sound and should be retained in the fiscal law.

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