Should people be allowed to file “alienation of affections” law suits?

Allowed to? Yes. I believe that if one can prove that an otherwise happy marriage was destroyed by a homewrecker, one should have a legal cause of action for alienation of affection. But I am in the minority. And indeed, some (though few) states still allow alienation of affection law suits. In fact, Kevin Howard sued in August 2017 under North Carolina’s alienation of affection law and was awarded $750,000 in August of 2019.

Would I advise it generally? No. Alienation of affections cases are becoming increasingly unpopular. Most states have outlawed a cause of action for alienation of affections. Those states that who retain the cause of action make it hard for people to prevail. When people call me asking whether it would be a good investment to sue for alienation of affections, I tell them no. Odds of success are low, costs of litigation are high. Alienation of affections cases are unpopular with courts. In today’s world there are more satisfactory and cost-effective ways to deal with alienation of affections than suing.

To prove alienation of affection in Utah (where I practice family law), the plaintiff must establish that the defendant

  1. wilfully and intentionally alienated the spouse’s affections
  2. resulting in the loss of the comfort, society and consortium[1] of the spouse, and
  3. (to justify punitive damages) a charge of malice.

Now how easy do you believe it would be to prove that somebody willfully and intentionally “stole” your unwilling spouse away? The defendant will argue that your spouse chose to step out on you (and then likely provide the court with a a laundry list of reasons for doing so, whether good or bad, whether true or false), not that your spouse was duped into leaving a perfectly happy marriage. This is what makes alienation of affection cases so difficult to win.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

[1] The marital alliance between a Husband and Wife and their respective right to each other’s support, cooperation, aid, and companionship. Loss of consortium is an actionable injury for which money damages may be awarded. The loss of the love, sexual relations, and services of a spouse are being considered tangible injuries. (

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