Judge rules alienation of affection laws unconstitutional

A North Carolina judge has ruled that the state’s alienation of affection laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

Judge is first in N.C. to challenge constitutionality of alienation of affection laws

A Forsyth Superior Court judge has ruled that North Carolina’s alienation of affection laws violate a person’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression, according to WNCN. North Carolina is one of just a handful of states that still has alienation of affection laws, which allow a spouse to sue the other’s spouse’s lover if that lover caused the breakup of their marriage. The judge claimed that far from protecting the sanctity of marriage, the laws were being used as bargaining chips during divorce proceedings.

Suing spouse’s lover

The alienation of affection laws give spouses the right to collect damages from the other spouse’s lover if it can be shown that the lover contributed to the breakup of the couple’s marriage. While alienation of affection can refer to any action, it usually refers to extramarital affairs.

North Carolina is one of just six states that still have such laws, and among those states is one of the only ones that do not impose a limit on the amount of damages a spouse can seek. Advocates of the laws claimed they were necessary in order to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Violates free speech

A Forsyth County judge, however, disagreed with that argument and ruled that the laws are a violation of the U.S. Constitution. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the judge ruled that by forbidding individuals from engaging in consensual sexual affairs, the law violated constitutional protections of free expression and free speech. He also said that there was little evidence that it was in the state’s best interests to maintain the alienation of affection laws.

The judge also claimed the laws were often used by disgruntled ex-spouses as a way of getting more money out of an ex-spouse or his or her lover. The case is likely to be appealed to the Court of Appeals and, possibly, to the state Supreme Court. The Forsyth judge is believed to be the first Superior Court judge in the state to challenge the laws.

Dealing with divorce

As the above case shows, contentious divorce battles can become lengthy and costly for former spouses. While litigation is sometimes necessary in order to get a satisfactory divorce agreement, in most cases divorces are better handled if both parties are willing to work together.

As such, it is important when going through a divorce to find a qualified family law attorney who is willing to help both ex-spouses come to a mutually beneficial agreement. An experienced attorney can use his legal expertise to make sure his client’s wishes and desires are respected throughout the divorce process.