North Carolina is one of the few states that still recognize the torts of alienation of affections and criminal conversation.  These claims may be brought under NC common law against someone who takes away the affection of a persons’s spouse.

The basis or elements of a claim for alienation of affections are:

  • There is a marriage,
  • With some love and affection, and
  • A third party takes willful and malicious acts and damages the love and affection.

These acts have to occur prior to the parties date of separation and as you can see, do not have an element of sexual relations.

Criminal conversation (adultery) is a tort brought by the injured spouse in NC against the person who had sexual relations with his or her spouse.  Criminal conversation may be proven in court by witnesses, admissions of the parties, or evidence of opportunity and inclination related to the relationship.

Alienation of affections and criminal conversation cases are usually brought in superior court in NC but in some circumstances they are brought in district court.  When these cases are brought in District Court the defending party frequently seeks to remove the case to superior court.  Either party in one of these cases has an absolute right to a jury trial.

The litigation of these kinds of cases may take several months to several years depending on the complexity of the facts, number of witnesses, and other related issues.

A plaintiff in these kinds of cases will usually seek compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are to compensate the plaintiff for the value of the loss of the services and relationship with his or her spouse and to repay damages caused by the defendant (such as when  a plaintiff suffers medical expenses).

Punitive damages are to punish the defendant for his or her conduct.



Raleigh lawyer Scott Allen handles alienation of affections and criminal conversation cases and has over seventeen years of experience.  

If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at