We learned last week that Adultery may be a crime in Mississippi. To recap; adultery can get you divorced and adultery can get you arrested, but did you also know that adultery can get you sued for money?! It’s the triple whammy. And don’t think you are immune because you are the paramour (the b/f or g/f).
Alienation of Affection (AOA) is known as a common law tort. A tort is a civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. It is a legal remedy available, not by statute, but due to case law history and an equitable claim whose intent is to protect marriages. AOA allows the wronged spouse to sue the “significant other” of the guilty spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. There are only 6 states in the country that still recognize AOA, but Mississippi is one of them and as recently as the 1990’s our Courts have refused to abolish this tort when it had the chance, reaffirming its place in the Mississippi legal system.
So what is AOA?
The elements are 1) Wrongful Conduct (ie: adultery, though not required), 2) loss of affections, and 3) a causal connection. All 3 must be present for a viable claim. There is a 3 year statute of limitations in which to bring the claim, beginning when the loss of affection is finally accomplished.
*As an aside, North Carolina has AOA and a separate tort called “criminal conversation” which only requires proof of sex with a married person for the “significant other” to be liable for damages. It does not require loss of affections or a causal connection or even a real relationship.
So what is the take away here? Just because you are not married does not mean you have no culpability in an affair. You will be a necessary witness in the divorce case and stand a chance of getting sued yourself for AOA. And if you go to North Carolina, you better behave.
Everyone knows that Adultery is a fault ground for divorce in Mississippi. Adultery is defined as sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex, not your spouse. It also must be uncondoned, which means legally forgiven by the other spouse, and it cannot have been committed in collusion with the other spouse just to gain a divorce. MCA § 93-5-1.
However, Adultery may also be considered crime!
- § 97-29-1. Adultery and fornication; unlawful cohabitation
If any man and woman shall unlawfully cohabit, whether in adultery or fornication, they shall be fined in any sum not more than five hundred dollars each, and imprisoned in the county jail not more than six months; and it shall not be necessary, to constitute the offense, that the parties shall dwell together publicly as husband and wife, but it may be proved by circumstances which show habitual sexual intercourse.
So in addition to having a divorce granted against the offending party they could also be arrested and prosecuted and face a $500.00 fine and/or up to 6 months in the county jail. And that may not even be the worst of it with the potential for an Alienation of Affection lawsuit out there. (It’s actionable to sue someone for the breakdown of your marriage, a blog for another day).
In the words of Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No!”
With High School and College Football in full action it reminded me of some of the lighter, or at least non-traditional, custody battles that I have been involved in.
Season Football Tickets- I was involved in a case where the parties were arguing over who got the season football tickets.
The tickets were secured by one party who had been getting them for years, but were actually paid for by the other party, so both felt they had a legitimate claim, additionally both genuinely wanted the tickets. It was not posturing by the wife to get a better deal or more support. The solution was joint custody.
Each picked certain games that they would attend each year and on the ones that both wanted to attend they agreed to alternate even years and odd years to determine who got to go. Another interesting aside was that there were 2 tickets for each game. Who the guest would be was also an issue. Neither wanted the other to be able to take a bf/gf. The compromise there was that the other ticket would be used by a family member or a minor friend of the children. (Minor meaning under 21, not just small). The custody of the tickets was one of the last issues to get resolved. It really did matter.
Dogs- In a similar vein, I have handled several cases involving pets. Pets, under Mississippi law are considered personal property (like an item or thing), however the parties are free to treat pets as members of the family should they so elect, and many do.
The parties ultimately agreed on a week-on, week-off custody arrangement for the dog to be with each “parent.” The agreement also addressed the expenses associated with the dog, including food, care and vet bills. Don’t forget those items!
Almost anything can be negotiated.