For Better or For (Much, Much) Worse
Do you remember something called “alienation of affection?” It was an old law that allowed a spouse to sue someone for interference with his or her marriage. It was once on the books in every state in the country. But in the 1930’s, most states got rid of the law, thinking that standard divorce laws were good enough. Today, you can only find the alienation of affection law in seven states — one of which is North Carolina.
And, are you ready for this? A North Carolina woman named Cynthia Shackelford decided to use the almost forgotten law to sue a younger woman named Anne Lundquist, alleging that Lundquist had an affair with her husband and ruined their marriage. In March of this year, after a two-day trial where Lundquist was noticeably absent, a jury ordered Lundquist to pay the jilted wife $9 million in damages.
A victorious Mrs. Shackelford declared that the entire reason for her lawsuit was to deter so-called home wreckers. “I’m just trying to send a message to other people that are like Anne (Lundquist), that if they’re looking at somebody else’s husband — that’s still living at home, that’s still sleeping in the marital bed and comes to parties and introduces his wife as his better half — to leave him alone and not go after him,” she said in one interview.
Ms. Lundquist, who now lives in New York, is appealing the verdict, saying the court system did not give her enough warning about when the case was going to trial and did not grant her a continuance to prepare. She also claims the Shackelfords’ marriage was irreparable before her own relationship began with Mr. Shackelford, which means that she could not have caused any alienation of affection in the first place.
What do you think? Do you believe a re-enactment of an alienation of affection law could put a stop to a lot of affairs? Would a man who wants to cheat with a married woman — or a woman who wants to cheat with a married man — think twice about getting involved if they know they could get sued and end up having to pay 9 million smackeroos?
We’ve got a show on about this entire subject today, and Mrs. Shackelford herself will be my guest. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read your comments.