The solid cases involve emails when we talk about viability in an alienation of affection case. If you have copies of emails, remember cell phone companies do not keep text messages, but the phones will still have the emails stored, and if you can pull this information from the phone, and go through it. If you can pull these old text messages, the old emails, phone records, those are going to stand up no matter what. Phone records will show that the defendant and this other person had all these calls between each other. It will show a difference between what was normal before the intrusion into the marriage, and then after.
Phone logs, letters, any kind of voice recorded messages, any type of written or oral communication that we can find during the course of the marriage when the plaintiff was not aware that anything was suspect, is evidence. Pictures are also important. If they had hired a private investigator before they came to see us all that is great information to use. A bad case would be something that was nothing other than allegations.
Many times bad cases will reveal that they had thought something was going on, it causes the marriage to separate, and then in their mind it was confirmed, because now the new spouse is seeing the person they thought they were seeing the whole time, but we do not have anything pre-separation. That constitutes a bad case.
Does The Outcome Of An Alienation Of Affection Case Impact A Divorce Proceeding?
Yes, an alienation of affection case can affect a pending divorce. We are a no-fault divorce state here, which means that the only thing you need to get a divorce in North Carolina is to be separate and apart for a year, with the intent to remain separate and apart. There is no finger pointing. The only thing that is different about that is when we talk about alimony; alimony is done a little differently. Adultery is a crime in the state of North Carolina still. It is not punished in my jurisdiction by the district attorney’s office. In fact, I do not know of any jurisdiction in North Carolina where adultery is still punished by the criminal justice system. However, it is still in the books, and we have a tort for that called criminal conversation that is usually filed alongside an alienation of affection lawsuit.
Criminal conversation is just a civil tort for adultery. In addition, all you need for criminal conversation is for a spouse to engage in sex with someone other than the other spouse. It can be proven by circumstantial evidence. If you can show that the person that should be getting the alimony (the dependent spouse) commits adultery during the course of this time of marriage, and you can prove that, then that is going to cut them off from alimony completely. It is an absolute bar from alimony.
On the other hand, if the spouse that is the supporting spouse commits adultery, usually it is an absolute award of alimony. If both parties commit adultery, then it is up to the court.
How Do You Help Clients Control Their Emotions In This Case?
By the time my clients retain me, they have figured out what they want to do. I have had clients that have physically attacked the other parties. I have had parties that have been cold and calculating, collecting evidence, and pretending like everything was copasetic, and then come and see me. Many people deal with this in different ways, and it is emotional, but usually by the time they come and see me, they have decided that they are going to remain civil, and they are going to go after this other person with our civil justice system.
How Important Is It To Retain An Experienced Attorney For An Alienation Of Affection Case?
It is very important to retain an experienced attorney for these kinds of cases. They are going to want a lawyer who knows the area of practice, because it is so unique. It really is strange. It is a different kind of tort, and recently there has been a lot of talk about abolishing it in this state, because once again, it is abolished in many others. Our Supreme Court has said that the only way this cause of action can be abolished is either through the legislature or through the Supreme Court of North Carolina themselves.
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