You can sue the person who seduced your husband or wife…or at least you used to be able to in Illinois.
It’s called “Alienation of Affection.” Alientation of affection is the wrongful act of one person that interferes with the affection one spouse has for the other. This could be when a husband or wife is deprived of the other’s affection because they have fallen in love with someone else.
Alienation of affections is an intentional tort recognized by Illinois courts. However, as of January 1, 2016, the General Assembly prohibited new cases from being brought based on facts arising on or after that date, and, for cases that might still be brought because of things happening before that date, there is a two-year statute of limitations (meaning a two-year deadline for bringing the case to court.)
Various cases in Illinois require that the plaintiff would have to prove three things. First, there was love and affection of the alienated spouse—actually married, not merely engaged—for the plaintiff that is evident by more than the mere length of the marriage. Second, there were actual financial damages. Finally, there were intentional overt acts, conduct, or enticement by the defendant causing the alienation of affections and where they did not just naturally go away from the relationship.
Some of these cases are quite old, going all the way back to the late nineteenth-century where the plaintiff merely claims that the defendant attempted to seduce his wife. Others involve such things as sexual enticement, slander regarding the spouse spouse, and gifts being given by the defendant whose actions are alienating the affections of the other spouse. In any case, the courts have made clear that the requirement of damages cannot be satisfied by just alleging injury to one’s feelings or even the development of a mental illness. Additionally, the courts have deemed actions undertaken by a parent towards his or her child which might have the effect of alienating the child’s affections for her spouse, such as “advising” him or her with respect to this marriage, not to be worthy of punishment in a case for alienation of affections. This “advising” can even go so far as to induce the child to leave the spouse if the parent reasonably believes it will advance the child’s welfare.
Note that potential plaintiffs are not limited to just spouses; children can bring these cases on their own behalf, too. One case from the 1940s allowed a child to sue a third-party who enticed the father to leave home, reasoning that the child was entitled to intangible qualities of the family relationship like love and affection, and rejecting the notion that allowing this child to bring this in this particular case would open the floodgates of litigation. In a different case, however, the court declined to recognize the child’s claim of the alienation of the affections of her father brought about by the injuries he suffered due to the acts of a third party, reasoning that while the general principle that child can bring alienation of affections cases remained, this kind of case was beyond the scope of what the courts envisioned and would require legislative action to permit it. In yet another case, the court rejected a child’s alienation of affections suit against his father for having been born an “adulterine bastard,” saying that while this might in theory allow the child to sue, the consequences of giving him a remedy might be too large for a court, and not a legislature, to handle.
While you can no longer sue your husband or wife’s lover, adultery still is a factor in a divorce. Adultery, while terribly common in divorce court, can color the judge’s opinion of what happened in the relationship and what will happen in the divorce. Money spent on a lover can be classified as dissipation of assets and thus recovered. Money a lover has spent on your spouse can reduce any support obligations they may be entitled to.
As with most areas of law, the legal parameters and facts that can fit within them are in flux. As always, discuss your issue(s) carefully with your attorney. If you need a lawyer, contact my Chicago, Illinois law firm to schedule a free consultation.