Local News

'Alienation of Affection' Law Divides Many in State

Posted November 29, 2006 10:43 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2006 10:27 a.m. EST

About 200 people a year file Alienation of Affection lawsuits in North Carolina against the man or woman their spouse is having an affair with. Only seven states still have the law, and few of these lawsuits are ever settled.

George Berg is one of a handful of people in North Carolina to successfully pursue an Alienation of Affection suit. He filed it 16 months ago against the man who had an affair with his wife. He recently settled out of court and was awarded more than $150,000.

"If used correctly, it is a very good tool to hold the other person responsible for their actions," Berg said.

But attorney Lee Rosen and members of the North Carolina Bar Association said the law is rarely used correctly and should be abolished. Rosen said they are often used for leverage in divorce situations to get more money or a better child custody situation.

"It also dates back to a time when women were property," Rosen said. "That's an outdated, outmoded concept. We've moved forward. It's time for the law to move forward."

In 2003, lawmakers rejected a push to eliminate the law. Since that time, opponents have not been able to find a lawmaker to sponsor a bill to remove the law.

"In North Carolina, the family is considered a sacred institution and we don't want to see laws that would lessen the ability to protect the family be passed in this state,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

But with Democrats picking up more seats in the recent election, opponents of the law say 2007 may be the year that it gets abolished. They are still searching for a lawmaker to sponsor such a bill.

Meanwhile, Berg is expected to begin receiving monthly payouts from the man he sued, starting in January. Berg said writing that check every month for the next 10 years should be a good reminder to his adversary.

"I don’t think he’ll do it again," Berg said.