Although the majority of states and jurisdictions have implemented laws that provide for a "no fault divorce" some states continue to have so-called “jilted spouses" laws. These laws allow the non-cheating spouse to bring a cause of action against the paramour for monetary damages.
Nebraska and Iowa are strictly "no fault divorce” states that do not allow you to bring such a cause of action. However, South Dakota does provide for this type of cause of action (as do North Carolina, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah). In South Dakota this cause of action is referred to as a cause of action for “alienation of affection.”
States that recognize these so called “jilted spouses" laws or “alienation of affection” actions continue to recognize such actions based on the perceived need to punish an interloper who has wrongfully interfered with the parties’ marriage. Although many observers would argue these laws are outdated, misogynistic, and support a view of women as property, the cause of action continues to be alive and well in certain jurisdictions.
For example, a recent North Carolina decision granted an $8.8 million judgment for damages related to the Defendant’s affair with the Plaintiff’s wife. Additionally, a recent ruling in a South Dakota Federal Court allowed an “alienation of affection” action to proceed to a jury trial.
The jurisdictional issues surrounding an “alienation of affection” action can be complex and will likely have a significant impact on whether the action can be successfully pursued. If you reside in a jurisdiction that continues to recognize this cause of action, and the circumstances of your situation support pursuing such a claim, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified divorce and family law attorney.
For more general inquiries into family law consider visiting our Divorce Docket Blog or speak to one of our family law attorneys in our Sioux City, Sioux Falls, or Omaha offices!