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Can I Sue My Spouse’s Paramour for Their Affair in North Carolina?

Alienation of affection and criminal conversation may be available legal remedies in North Carolina if your spouse has an affair. Alienation of affection holds the paramour (the person your spouse cheats with) liable for interfering in a marital relationship. Criminal conversation holds that person responsible for engaging in sexual activity with someone else’s spouse.

These behaviors are against the state’s civil law, and spouses who have been cheated on have the option to sue the other man or woman for their role in the unfaithful spouse’s adultery. It is not simple to prove these civil claims, however, as there are numerous elements involved in each.

A recent case involving these two legal concepts was heard in the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Beavers v. McMican

Husband discovered text messages on Wife’s phone in which she had sent nude photos of herself to an unidentified person. There were also messages that discussed sexual intercourse with this person. Husband left the marital home after confronting Wife, and she ultimately confessed to having an extramarital affair but denied having sexual intercourse. Wife stated that the paramour’s name was Dustin.

Weeks later, Wife admitted to having sexual intercourse with someone but did not say who. Over three months after Husband and Wife separated, Wife began dating her coworker, McMican. Husband, Beavers, sued McMican for alienation of affection and criminal conversation.

The trial court awarded summary judgment to McMican, stating Beavers did not have enough evidence to support his claims. On appeal by Beavers, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision with one dissenting opinion. The case then went to the North Carolina Supreme Court after an appeal by McMican.

Because it was unclear whether McMican was the same person Wife had been involved with prior to separation, the court considered previous case law that determined whether or not post-separation sexual conduct could support alienation of affection and criminal conversation claims. North Carolina General Statute § 52-13(a) provides that a defendant in such cases cannot be held liable for behavior that occurred after the physical separation of the spouses. However, the Supreme Court also determined that post-separation conduct could be used to contextualize and corroborate pre-separation behaviors.

Beavers could not provide any evidence that proved McMican was having sexual intercourse with his Wife during their marriage. This is a required element of criminal conversation claims. He could also not prove any malice on McMican’s part, which is required to claim alienation of affection. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and reinstated the trial court’s order that granted summary judgment to McMican. For more information on Alienation of Affection, speak with one of the experienced attorneys at Woodruff Family Law Group.