Adultery, as defined by the General Statutes of North Carolina, occurs when either a legally married man or woman "lewdly or lasciviously associate, bed or cohabitate together" with a person who is not their spouse. North Carolina recognizes adultery as a grounds for divorce. It can lead to the filing of lawsuits for either alienation of affection or criminal conversation, or what is known as a heart balm lawsuit. The courts typically award financial settlements to the innocent party.
Alientation of Affection
An alienation of affection lawsuit is typically filed against the spouse who is committing adultery by the spouse who is not. In order for such a lawsuit to be filed, the spouse who is filing the lawsuit must attest that a loving marriage has been destroyed by the adultery which has occurred. There is a three-year statute of limitations on filing such a lawsuit.
In order for a criminal conversation lawsuit to be filed in North Carolina, sexual intercourse between a married individual and another person who is not the married individual's spouse must have occurred. In such lawsuits, the third party can only be held liable for damages if sexual intercourse has occurred.
A heart balm lawsuit combines an alienation of affection and criminal conversation lawsuit. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that alienation of affection occurs when a dating relationship between a married individual and a third party occurs during marriage. A criminal conversation lawsuit can be legally pursued when sexual acts take place either before or after the filing of a legal separation agreement.