What Is Alienation of Affection?

There is nothing more sacred than promising to share the rest of your life with a person you love. Although relationships are bound to have their fair share of ups and downs, sometimes problems arise that make a marriage irreconcilable. Whether it is because the spark that was once there fizzles out or a spouse discovers that his or her loved one has been having an affair, what usually ensues next is a messy divorce. In most states, the only legal recourse against an unfaithful spouse is to file for divorce. However, in a handful of states there is another option: a lawsuit for alienation of affection.

What is Alienation of Affection?

Alienation of affection occurs when one spouse sues the other spouse’s extramarital lover for taking away the love and affection the married couple once had. Basically, the spouse who was cheated on sues the “other man” or “other woman” for ruining his or her marriage. According to Illinois case law, in order to prevail in an alienation of affection lawsuit, the following elements must be met:

  • There was love and affection between both spouses;
  • Overt acts, conduct, or enticement by the defendant (the “other man” or “other woman”) caused the love and affection to dissipate; and
  • The plaintiff (spouse filing the lawsuit) incurred actual damages.

Illinois is among only a handful of states that recognizes alienation of affection lawsuits, and is joined by North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah, among others. To limit the amount of damages a plaintiff can claim in the lawsuit, Illinois has enacted the Alienation of Affections Act, which prevents a plaintiff from recovering punitive damages for feelings of shame, humiliation, sorrow, or mental anguish due to the affair.

Is it a Good Idea to Pursue an Action for Alienation of Affection?

Although being cheated on by your spouse can bring on a plethora of negative feelings towards the “other man” or “other woman,” pursuing a lawsuit for alienation of affection may not be the best course of action. As a threshold manner, alienation of affection lawsuits do not usually result in large financial awards. This is because the monetary award is limited to actual damages that occur due to losing the love and affection from your spouse and inadvertently puts a price tag on how much your spouse is worth. Additionally, a lawsuit for alienation of affection can take an emotional toll on all the parties involved by unraveling intimate details of the affair.

If you recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful and are contemplating divorce, contact one of the experienced DuPage County divorce lawyers at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today. We will help you through this difficult time by handling your divorce so that you can focus on moving on with your life.