Tag Archives: alienation of affections

R. Kelly; Singing the Blues?

Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known as R. Kelly, has been sued in Hinds County, Jackson, Mississippi.

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Kelly, a singer, songwriter, record producer, and former professional basketball player, is the named Defendant, along with his professional entities, in a pending Alienation of Affection lawsuit. The suit was filed by a Hinds County Sheriff’s Deputy, Kenny Bryant.

Bryant alleges that R. Kelly interfered with Bryant’s marriage relationship ultimately alienating his wife’s affection from Bryant.

Alienation of Affection is a Mississippi common law tort. That means it is a civil wrong, based on case-law and not a statute.

Alienation of Affection claims allow 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 Alienation, but Mississippi is one of them and in the 1990’s our  appellate Courts reaffirmed Alienation as alive and well in the Mississippi legal system.

Alienation of Affection requires;

1) Wrongful Conduct, ie: adultery;

2) Loss of Affections, meaning there was a good relationship prior to the wrongful conduct; and

3) Causal Connection linking the Wrongful Conduct to the actual Loss of Affection.  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.

Even if the above can be shown it does not mean that the Plaintiff wins. A jury would then decide a money value on the “damages.”  That is a hard figure to quantify.

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Criminal Conversation (Just Sex)

Criminal Conversation is likely the most misleading term you will hear or read today.  Criminal conversation, briefly mentioned in this prior blog on Alienation of Affection, is today’s topic.

Criminal Conversation is an act of adultery between a person and the spouse of another.   This tort, meaning a civil wrong, commonly arises in Alienation of Affection situations, but differs greatly from AOA.  Alienation allows a wronged spouse to sue the “significant other” of the guilty spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. It requires proof of 3 elements;  1) Wrongful Conduct, 2) loss of affections, and 3) a causal connection.

In Criminal Conversation if you have sex with a married person, who is not your spouse, you are guilty.  There is no defense to the tort of criminal conversation.

Consent of the wife is no defense. The fact that the wrongdoer did not know the wife was married, but believed her to be single is not a defense. The fact that the wife represented herself as single is not a defense. The fact that the wife was the aggressor is not a defense. The fact that she has been neglected or mistreated by her husband is not a defense. The fact that she and her husband were separated through his fault is no defense.

Criminal Conversation has been hailed as “notorious for affording a fertile field for blackmail and extortion” and action may be brought “not for the purpose of preserving the marital relationship, but rather for purely mercenary or vindictive motives.”Kline v. Ansell, 287 Md. 585414 A.2d 929, at 931. (1980). Courts have found that this tort is “incompatible with today’s sense of fairness” because there are no defenses to a cause of action. Id.

Several arguments have been advanced for the abolition of it, including;

  • (1) a woman is no longer the property of her husband;
  • (2) the tort has no deterrent effect;
  • (3) a cause of action may be brought for vindictive purposes;
  • (4) the potential for abuse is great;
  • (5) the tort is devoid of any defenses; and
  • (6) determining damages, meaning money, is difficult. 

So now that you are sweating about this, rest easy.  Criminal Conversation was abolished by the MS Supreme Court in 1992 in the case of Saunders v. Alford, 607 So.2d 1214 (Miss. 1992).  Alienation of Affection, however, is alive and well.

Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney in Mississippi.  If you need to have a conversation with a lawyer about family law you know who to call.

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer 

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms

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Alienation of Affection; Adultery that gets you Sued!

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.