Yes, You Can Sue Someone for Breaking up a Marriage

It's called alienation of affection.

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No one wins in an adulterous relationship—least of all is the jilted spouse—but luckily, there is legal recourse for some situations: You can sue someone for breaking up a marriage. After all, the third-party is attempting to come between two people who have a legal contract: a marriage license. This is all you need for grounds for a lawsuit.

In a few states, this would be an appropriate case for an alienation of affections suit. You may file a suit charging the other man or the other woman with intentionally interfering in your marital relationship. The adultery itself is not the crime; it is the actions of the other man or woman that determines whether a law has been broken.

What is Alienation of Affection?

Alienation of affection is the interference with the relationship between a husband and wife by a third party without an excuse. This is a civil tort claim, usually filed against third-party lovers, brought by a spouse who's been alienated due to the actions of a third party.

States Recognizing Alienation of Affection

If you live in Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, or Utah, you have legal recourse should someone intrude into your marriage by having an affair with your spouse.

The rest of the country has struck down its laws related to adultery. Today, laws give people more freedom in order to keep up with the times, especially with the advent of open and polyamorous relationships. It also avoids the most vindictive types of lawsuits, which can be difficult to prosecute and costs taxpayers a considerable amount of money. 

What You Need to Prove

In order to open an alienation of affection lawsuit, you need to prove the following:

  • Your marriage was happy and that love existed between you and your spouse.
  • The third party destroyed the love.
  • The third party’s intentions were to destroy the marriage and the love between you and your spouse.

Lawsuit Considerations

Unless money is no object or you stand to recover a substantial amount in damages, suing for alienation of affection is not worth the time and effort. You are already dealing with a spouse who cheated, the emotional fallout of that fact, and possibly the legal and emotional process of divorce. Your plate is pretty full already, and a separate lawsuit could be the straw that broke the camel's back. Don't overwhelm yourself to get back at your spouse. 

The desire to strike back at a third party who interfered in your marriage is understandable, but a long legal proceeding and even potential financial gain will not take away the pain you feel over your spouse's betrayal. Besides, a man or woman who will go after someone else's spouse is not going to be held back by a civil legal proceeding. Morals can't be litigated.

You may be able to hurt that person's bank account, but you won't change who they are at their core. Slapping them on the wrist legally won't undo the damage done to you, and it won't necessarily stop them from doing it to others. 

You will be better served if you focus your time and energy on healing from the emotional pain caused by the cheater's behavior and moving on should there be a divorce. The only time it is beneficial to sue for alienation of affection is if divorce, due to an affair, leaves you financially damaged and you need the courts to award you monies to help you survive after the divorce. 

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