Published on:

Can I Sue My Spouse for Adultery in North Carolina?

North Carolina is one of only a few states that allow a spouse to sue the person their husband or wife had an affair with, but this leaves many people asking what options there are for holding the cheating spouse accountable. If your spouse committed adultery and their actions caused you to suffer significantly, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Torts Against Spouses

A tort is a wrongful act that causes harm to someone. Not many people are familiar with this legal concept; the term personal injury is more commonly understood. Personal injury is a type of tort case and is the most widely recognized.

North Carolina General Statutes state that spouses can recover damages from each other for tortuous acts in the same way that unmarried people can[1]. A husband or wife may file a lawsuit against their spouse for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, as was done in the case of Clark v. Clark[2]. In this case, the husband had an affair, and the jury found that the husband was liable for alienation of affection and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The wife was awarded $1.2 million in damages.

Breakdown of Clark v. Clark

In addition to the adultery in the Clark case, there were also other elements that impacted the outcome. Below is a brief summary of the case:

The husband, who was the defendant, had an affair with a woman he met approximately six years into his marriage with the plaintiff. After realizing her husband was having an affair, the wife confronted her husband, and the husband left the marital home. The husband continued an intimate relationship with both his wife, despite their separation, and the woman he had an affair with. Eventually, the relationship deteriorated further, and the plaintiff ended her relationship with the defendant.

Shortly after that, the defendant and the other woman engaged in libelous harassment of the plaintiff through the internet and social media, including posting nude photos of the plaintiff online and creating fake social media profiles in the plaintiff’s name.

This case involved intentional infliction of emotional distress, revenge porn, and alienation of affection, which ultimately led to the $1.2 million in damages awarded to the plaintiff. The defendant in Clark v. Clark appealed the trial court’s decision, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Legal issues like these are especially complex because they require familiarity and understanding of North Carolina laws regarding divorce, adultery, and torts. The legal team at Woodruff Family Law Group has extensive experience in all matters affecting North Carolina divorce proceedings. Contact us today for a consultation.

[1] North Carolina General Statutes. §52-5.

[2] Clark v. Clark, 867 S.E.2d 743, 2021 NCCOA 652 (N.C. Ct. App. 2021).