Infidelity. Cheating. Stepping out. It is considered by many to be the worst type of betrayal by a spouse, and it is the reason why many marriages end. Divorce lawyers stay busy handling cases for spouses who claim their husbands or wives cheated on them.
In seven states (North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah), however, divorce lawyers stay busy not only handling cases involving cheating spouses, but also the ones involved with the cheating spouse. The law that allows the third party to be sued is called the “alienation of affection” tort; in other words, the “other woman” or the “other man” is considered responsible for the breakup of the marriage and therefore, is sued in court. In recent months, this law became the focus of national attention, when news reports indicated “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino was targeted in a lawsuit by the estranged wife of Barrino’s married boyfriend, Antwaun Cook.
There are many that say the law is an outdated one and should be abolished in all states (it was in effect in many states in the 1800s, but has since been repealed in all but the above-mentioned states). The modern-day mindset is that only the spouse who committed adultery should be considered responsible for the breakup of the marriage, and that pursuing the estranged spouse’s lover is the act of a bitter, dejected spouse.
It needs to be understood, that the alienation of affection law does not allow someone to stay with a spouse who continually cheats, and sue everyone involved with the spouse. The lawsuit is also part of the divorce proceedings, so therefore, the spouse who cheated is being sued in divorce court, along with the third party. It is not a way to seek revenge against the estranged spouse’s lover, while taking no action against the estranged spouse.
Personally, I think it is a good idea to keep the law on the books (I live in one of the states that has this law in effect). I believe spouses should be faithful to each other, and are more responsible for the dissolution of their own marriages than anybody else; but I also believe that those who knowingly get involved with married people whose marriages end as a result of the affair, should also be considered in the divorce proceedings, since the spouse didn’t cheat alone. Those who say the mistress doesn’t owe the wife anything since she’s not married to the wife, are missing the point. If someone chooses to cheat on his or her spouse, with someone who is aware of the marriage, then in my opinion, they both worked together to say, “Forget you and how you feel,” to the wronged spouse, when they entered into the affair together. Whatever happened to the Golden Rule? What happened to karma? In my opinion, karma comes in the courtroom when it’s time to face the music, probably making somebody wish he or she had followed the Golden Rule.
I believe it takes two to tango….and therefore, both the cheating spouse and the lover should be handled accordingly. It’s not being vengeful; it’s about taking appropriate action. The way I see it, they did it together, they pay the price together.
For the record, I have never experienced divorce and hope I never have to; but knowing there is a law such as the alienation of affection tort, makes me feel better about justice in the courtroom, for those who find themselves there due to the actions of two, not just one.