Thursday, April 15, 2010

She took my husband.

As if he were a trout.

A North Carolina jury awarded an ex wife $9 million for alienation of affection against her ex husband's mistress.  Now that's something.  And I suppose it could take the sting out of betrayal.  Maybe?

Here's the catch, the mistress didn't show for trial.  That means that the ex wife was all alone, telling her side only.  The mistress claimed she didn't know about the jury trial.  All of that will be sorted out in Motions and Appeals.

And of course the mistress doesn't have $9 million and probably won't have it any time soon.  The ex wife said she's using the lawsuit to send a message about extramarital affairs.  "You don't go after married men and break up families, " the ex-wife said.

Georgia, like North Carolina, recognizes a tort of alienation of affection. 

Even though the law is on the books, it is seldom pursued.  I'm surprised at the North Carolina jury, even in the mistress' absence.  Juries in Georgia tend to lend a cynical eye to most matters matrimonial.  Georgia juries tend to take a rather realistic view that the husband is not a trout that can be snatched, unknowingly and unwillingly from the swift waters of marital bliss.  A mistress doesn't break up a family.  A wandering spouse does.

"She didn't take what was yours and it probably wasn't worth much anyway," seems to be the jury's attitude.

This is not to say that under the right circumstances and with the right jury and with a complete absence of opposition, a Georgia jury couldn't return a similar verdict.  I just wouldn't hold my breath. 

The financial damage done to the ex-wife is sought in the divorce itself, though not from a tort standpoint where you get damages from pain and suffering.  (If divorcing spouses could get pain and suffering endured in a marriage it would be a very different world.)  The model is more contractual or business related.  You get a portion, usually a good portion, of what the marriage is worth, the holdings of the partnership.  Under the right circumstances, you can get alimony to make up for the lost income to the household.  (See other blog entries for more explanation on this.)

Every so often I am asked the alienation of affection question.  It can't help but come up in an adulterous setting.  But I focus back on the marriage, its dissolution, its assets, and the client looking for happiness that probably had been long gone from the relationship anyway.  I discourage tilting at windmills.

Still, I must confess, if $9 million is out there somewhere from some paramour, I'm open to it.

Michael Manely

1 comment:

  1. I was also quite amused by this story of the $9 million punishment. I kept thinking, "It takes two to tango, honey." Reality hurts, but it hurts more when you keep trying to blame someone other than the culprit.