RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina is one of a handful of states that still allow alienation-of-affection lawsuits, and now some divorce lawyers want the old law repealed.
In 2001, Christine Cooper of Greensboro won $2 million when she sued after her husband said he had found another woman.
"He said, 'Um, I've met someone and I'm leaving.' I just sat there stunned," she said.
In addition to the $2 million award in the Greensboro case, the jury awarded $1.2 million in 1997 in a Forsyth County case, $1 million to an Alamance County woman, $243,000 to a Wake County Man and $40,000 to a Durham man whose wife allegedly ran off with another man.
Divorce lawyer Lee Rosen said the alienation of affection law makes getting a divorce a mess.
"There's often bad conduct. Adultery is not uncommon, but an alienation-of-affection case just polarizes everyone and devastates everything in its path including the children and both spouses," Rosen said.
Lawmakers in the state house want to end civil claims against the marriage breaker. Supporters of the movement say the law is old-fashioned.
"The world has changed. Women are no longer viewed as property. alienation-of-affection is something that dates way, way back, and if there was ever a law that needed to be removed, this is it," Rosen said.
The final decision on the alienation-of-affection law is now in the hands of the Senate. A similar bill passed the House and failed in the Senate last session.
High-dollar awards in alienation-of-affection cases have been handed out over the years. In 1926, a jury in Macon County returned a verdict in the amount of $12,000 against the lover of a plaintiff's wife. A Rowan County jury awarded $30,000 against a husband's girlfriend in 1969.