What You Need to Know About Alienation of Affection in MississippiIf you think you may be involved in an alienation of affection situation, you are not in a very happy place right now –a complicated romantic dynamic to say the least, whether you are going to be the plaintiff or the defendant. In modern times, while we have seen many large settlements and jury verdicts that have been protected by the appellate courts, the most common use of an alienation of affection case in Mississippi is to apply third party pressure in a divorce action.
A Brief History of Alienation of Affection in Mississippi
The tort of alienation of affection was recognized in Mississippi back in the 1920’s. The law developed by stating when a spouse is wrongfully deprived of rights to the services and companionship and consortium of their spouse, they have a cause of action against one who has interfered with their domestic relations. Today, less than 15% of states recognize alienation of affection as a viable case, but Mississippi has protected all things related to traditional marriage for a long time. Justice Smith said the following in the case of Bland v. Hill:
It appears society's moral values have changed during modern times, I do not believe Mississippi should get aboard this runaway train. I would also not take away an offended spouse's only legal means to seek redress in our courts for the wrongful conduct of a third party who willfully and intentionally interferes in and aids in destroying a marriage.
In retaining the tort, Mississippi has stated the purpose of a cause of action for alienation of affection is the protection of the love, society, companionship and comfort forming the foundation of a marriage. The right sought to be protected is that of consortium. Justice Smith went on to say the following:
Should an individual be allowed to intrude upon a marriage to such an extent as to cause it to come to an end? Does a spouse have a valuable interest in a marriage that is worthy of protection from the intruding third party? In my view, the answer to both questions is in the affirmative. The traditional family is under such attack both locally and nationally these days that this Court should not retreat now from the sound view of the tort of alienation of affections espoused by this Court in Saunders as entitling a spouse to protection of the love, society, companionship and comfort that form the foundation of a marriage. … the doctrine of alienation of affections has not outlived its usefulness as a deterrent protecting the marital relationship of a husband and wife in cases where the facts clearly warrant.
At the core, Alienation of affection is a lawsuit in which one party claims the defendant deprived them of the affection of their spouse. This almost always arises against a married person's girlfriend or boyfriend- called a paramour in legal circles. These cases remain very popular in Mississippi. There may also be very limited circumstances where a business or organization could be held responsible for alienation of affection.
The elements of a case for alienation of affection are (1) wrongful conduct by a third party; (2) loss of the spouse's affection; and (3) a causal connection between the conduct and the loss. The interference must be active. While adultery is not necessarily an element of alienation of affection, the proof of adultery gives rise to a presumption of malice, which permits punative damages. Damage calculations include such things as physical and emotional injuries, and the plaintiff may recover lost wages, medical bills, private investigator fees, attorney fees, counseling expenses and other calculable economic damages.
Not Every Situation Merits an Alienation of Affection Lawsuit
You must really consider the strength of the relationship before the affair and whether or not the paramour actually has enough money to make a case worthwhile. The classic example of this type of case is when a wealthy doctor woos his young, married nurse away from her husband with lavish gifts and promises of the good life. If the nurse and her husband had a relatively good marriage before the doctor came into the picture, the husband may have a very viable case for alienation of affection.
At R+E, we are very selective when getting involved in cases for alienation of affection. Call our office (601-898-8655) or confidentially submit a basic intake form so our staff can complete a standard conflict check. That’s when we make sure nothing on this end will stand in the way of us being helpful. Then, we will schedule a time for you to talk to one or more of our attorneys to go over your situation.
FAQs related to Alienation of Affection
- Can a business or company be held responsible for alienation of affection?
Maybe. The Mississippi Courts have said their "may" be a set of facts which would constitute a viable claim for alienation of affection against a business or company.
- Can a case for alienation of affection be dealt with in my divorce?
Yes. Claims for alienation of affection are routinely negotiated during the process of divorce to bring complete closure.
- Can you get punitive damages in an alienation of affection case?
Yes. The proof of adultery gives rise to a presumption of malice, which permits punative damages in an alienation of affection case.
- Do I have any recourse against my spouse’s lover?
Yes, Mississippi is one of the few states where a husband or wife can file suit for Alienation of Affection against their spouse’s lover. Alienation of Affection is a civil lawsuit where the “other man or woman” can be held liable for actual and punitive money damages.
- Does your firm take alienation of affection cases on a contingency fee?
Almost never. While we are routinely involved in alienation of affection cases, we almost never take them on a contingency fee.
- How common are cases for alienation of affection in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, cases for alienation of affection are very common. However, they are most often used to create leverage in divorce negotiations.
- If my spouse is at fault for the divorce, do I get to keep everything?
Not necessarily. Fault is not specifically considered by the court, but each parties' contribution to the stability and harmony of the home is a Ferguson factor. In addition, if it is determined one spouse committed adultery, the cheating spouse should only receive ongoing support if they would be destitute without it.
- In Mississippi, if I have sex with my spouse after I find out about an affair have I lost my ground for divorce?
Maybe. One often used defense to adultery is “condonation.” Condonation is the forgiveness of a marital wrong. Condonation may be expressed or implied. Staying in the same home does not constitute condonation and does not act as a bar to a divorce being granted, but some older cases talk about how one act of sex may be considered “forgiveness.” However, even if a true condonation exists, it is conditioned on the offending spouse's continued good behavior and full knowledge of what is being forgiven. One cannot forgive what they do not know. If your spouse does not discontinue the affair, you still have grounds for divorce. In practical effect, condonation places your spouse on a form of temporary probation. So long as he observes the conditions on which the forgiveness rests, you do not have grounds for divorce. It is necessary also that the condonation be free and voluntary. If it is induced by fraud, fear or force, it is of no effect.
- What are the elements of alienation of affection?
The elements of a case for alienation of affection are (1) wrongful conduct by a third party; (2) loss of the spouse's affection; and (3) a causal connection between the conduct and the loss.