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May 13th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

For Better or For (Much, Much) Worse

alientationofaffection1Do 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.

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129 Responses to “For Better or For (Much, Much) Worse”

  1. alyse says:

    This law will not stop people from cheating, because the only time someone would think of using this law is after the fact. Its a way for people who are hurt in a marriage to try to get even and put the blame on someone else. It takes two people to have an affair and the person in the marriage who is cheating should be held equally responsible. Money is nice, but it doesn’t repair a broken family or a broken marriage.

  2. DOMINIQUE says:

    This law is needed and wanted! Marriage is not just a pretty cake and a white dress. Its not just a piece of paper and a honeymoon. Its a comingling of heart, body, blood and as a christian soul. Its also a financial partnership. So many insensitive and greedy (mistress on the hunt), who are so greedy and want someone elses husband deserve to be sued. Shame on you!!! Leave other peoples husbands alone. That hussy went to her home, looked around and saw what the wife had built with him, helped him to become the man that he became, and decided that she wanted it for herself. Yes, infidelity takes two, but when a man is going thrue midlife -he is vulnerable. He is testing his man-hood. At this time he needs to be reminded that he has not lost his manhood- its just that a good woman had seen that about him years ago and still sees it and wants him. Single woman-get your own man!! There are some single man who is lonely and needs you. Leave the husbands to their wives. I never had someone stand up for me when my husband took up with a mistress after 12 yrs of marriage. He gave her what I helped him to built. I am proud of you Cynthia. Shame on you the mistress who takes from someone else what is not hers. Stealing and Sin both start with “S” for a reason.

  3. Linda says:

    If you want my opinion I don´t think it will stop people from having affairs and I think the wife only sued the other woman to get the money. By saying that I don´t mean to defend people who are having affairs but that is just my opinion.

  4. Karen Foster says:

    I want to say, if its not alienation of affection, then there has to be a law to support unsuspecting spouses against other men and women who can’t seem to find a “single” partner and runs after married men or women! Whatever happened to morality in this country??! I was with my husband for 26 yrs. I trusted him with ever cell in my body, he was my soul mate and my best friend! We had problems, everyone does! But 5 days after my daughter’s wedding he asked for a divorce…and wasn’t nice about it either…he blamed ME for a month before I found out about HER…I called her and asked her to leave me and my husband alone for a month to see if we could work out….and she refused! But mentioned how “brave” I was for calling her. My daughter was so upset she even called her, and my other daughter e mailed her, it is quite obvious to me that people just don’t respect other’s feelings anymore. Guess I am lucky my kids are in their 20’s and one in her 30’s, but I have 5 grandchildren with this man, and the other woman has 2 children under 15 yrs old…wonder if they know what their mother did. I personally would never involve her kids…just wonder. I believe in Karma, but I also believe our standards of morality have declined, and a law must be made to deter people away from seeking out married men or women. I believe to this very moment my husband was going through not only a mid life crisis, but also living with a mad woman getting ready for a marriage of our daughter, and I was a bit busy…
    I know what I have suffered, I lost 40 lbs in 1 and a half months, had a mental breakdown, I even had to move away for 7 months because I wanted to hurt HER.
    I read all the comments. I am glad to know I am not alone. But sad. Sad that men can be so insensitive to women that gave so much!
    After 8 months, I don’t cry much anymore if thats any condolence to anyone. Be strong. Keep loving. and don’t forget who you are!

  5. Rett Neal says:

    I have been married for going on 33 years and am now facing a divorce. My husband has been having an affair for 3 years with a woman who knew he was married from the beginning. I also asked her to leave my husband alone as we were trying to work through this situation. I married for life, through sickness (his alcholism, heart stint surgery, heart attack), and now, facing retirement years was ready to enjoy time with just my husband. Not now. She has moved in with him, met his family (his father an elder in our church),and also met OUR children and our grandchildren. Were not even divorced yet! Laws in some states such as Indiana don’t help spouses when they have been a stay at home mother and homemaker, so after helping him all my life I will now live in poverty as he will not have to pay me any alimony for the 32 plus years I was part of his life. I am working 2 jobs and I still dont make what he makes on just 2 of his BRING HOME checks. Where are the laws to make men or women who cheat take care of the responsiblity they started with? People should stop going with the “flo” and stand up for whats right, stop accepting everything or looking the other way. Speak out for what right. This woman STOLE my retirement years and INCOME to enjoy them, it’s just not right.

  6. catherine says:

    My boyfriend of 2 years has been chased by a former girlfriend who was married.
    She told him often she loved him and wanted him not her current husband.
    Their marriage ended. All along I told my boyfriend she was chasing him to which he replied they were just friends. Attraction is powerful and commitment wanesn under the pressures of marriage. I also was told of a couple who used the alienation of affection law to get money. The husband had a good looking wife and men often
    fell into the couple’s game . She would run off with the guy. the husband would sue and the man she ran off with would pay and she would go back to the husband for them to do it all over again. Both my husbands cheated. and lied and paid lawyers to get their way..control nwas their motive. my children were never their motivation.
    Money is the fuel that runs most courts and w/o it the children pay the price.
    I think we need courts that care about the children not whose getting paid the most. My son is bounced and taken to poor care givers. His dad just likes having control. When he was younger he has asked that there be no more daddy days. It is ignored. Today he just goes thru the paces. No stability no consistency
    just being bounced and his dad reveling in having the right to put him with whomever he chooses. Neglecting the relationship in order to have your own way
    is what alienation of affection is based on. Well can we sue for parents who just want control and manipulate the courts?
    When a man wants to cheat with another woman he usually does and with no recompense. I know of a situation where the wife let the other woman move in with them. Todays courts do not defend marriage or children

  7. In Disbelief says:

    Is it morally right for someone to pursue a married individual? Of course not! I understand the pain and frustration that the wives feel when a spouse cheats but the fact remains is that the “other woman” owes you NOTHING. It’s your husband that spoke the vows. It is your husband that needs to be accountable. The law is outdated. You can’t “steal” anyone away from another. A person will leave if they want to leave.

  8. I think one thing missing from this debate is the reason that most states no longer recognize this tort: most states have concluded that applying damages of this sort as heart balm does no good and rather increases harm, and that it often penalizes the people who are less responsible while not penalizing the adulterer themselves.

    Additionally, there is another problem: it’s easy to game such a system. For example, at one point I believe in Texas, there was a couple which would use this as a neat extortion system. One would sleep around and the other would file lawsuits. Most of the defendants would settle….

    These laws do no good. Let’s face it: If you cannot trust your spouse in this area, no law is going to change that, short of, say, stoning adulterers to death.

  9. Darnell wrote: “Most of affairs happen at workplace and some companies enable the misconduct. It should be prohibited to have extramarital affairs at work.”

    It’s worth noting that the North Carolina statute specifically states that one cannot sue a corporation under this tort. This is also a fairly new amendment (iirc over the last year or so).

  10. Mel Martinez says:

    As a woman married to a man who has cheated at least 2 times I understand why a wife would sue for alienation of affection. I also understand that if a man is going to cheat there is nothing you can do to stop it. The decision lies within the wife to stay or to go. In my hometown a Chiropractor whom I worked for started having an affair with a patient whom was married, his wife sued her for alienation of affection and won. I felt vindicated for myself as well as her, but in the same note she did not hold a gun to his head. If it would not have been her it would have been someone else. Instead I feel there should be some kind of punishment for this type of action. If a spouse beats you they are arrested for domestic violence, cheating is a form of domestic violence. It does not leave physical scars, but emotional ones that are extremely hard to get over. It forever changes the way you see people eventually affecting the type of person you become. You can say it doesnt, that one can move on (which you can) but your not the same. Alienation of affection is a good law it just needs a little tweaking, adding the cheating spouse would be a good start.

  11. Ruth says:

    There needs to be a law to protect the wife or husband of the cheater. Maybe not
    for 9 million but at least 500 thousand. I worked all my life when this happened to me 30 years. There were no signs of any problems in my marriage. My husband had told me that he hired this gal that was gay. I met her and she knew that I loved my husband very much. Out of the clear blue my husband told me he wanted a divorce. Why do people that once say “I want a divorce” Think they are then FREE to openly have an affair when they are not divorced. I finally divorce my husband 3 years later. If he wanted a divorce he should have filed. They had a child while we were married and after we were divorced they had another child but, she would not marry him. To this day I think she had this plan to have the children she wanted and get support to raise them, but never marry their dad. In her mind the children are her property and she has never let him have visitation and he has been to court 2 times for over 12,000.00. She is always very nasty and tries to blame everything on him. She tells her daughters that she is the ONLY one that loves them, which is not true. She tells them that their dad doesn’t do anything for them. He has always sent Christmas and Birthday presents and or cards and paid child support. At this time they are getting over $900.00 each per month from Soc Security from his account, but she says he is not doing anything for his kids. (That is FREE money) When in fact he worked all his life to earn his S/S. She wants her kids is the middle of all the problems and their dad does not want them in the middle so he has backed out of their life until they are of legal age. Their dad has never gotten a Thank you for anything he has gotten them and doesn’t know if they received them. This woman is a real scam artist.

  12. Tammy Spearman says:

    The law is ridicules. It is a vehicle for revenge it’s as simple as that. Dr. Phil I watch your show on this subject. I was looking for you to be unbiased and give equal thought to both sides as you always do. However, in my opinion you did not do that for this issue and I wonder why. This law puts it all on the “other” person. What about the responsibility of the married person. You are saying that a grown person has no control of his/her own actions. I heard one of this woman children say that she would have nothing to do with her father as long as he was under “that woman control”. If I am not mistaken this man is a grown adult in control of his own mind. Her father chooses to be with that woman. I am sure he provided a good life for you as you were growing up. Choosing to be married to someone else has nothing to do with you. Now granted some of the things he is said to have done were not good but again it was him doing those things, the other women could not have done them without him. We don’t “own” people. People are not possessions. If I choose to dissolve my marriage contract for whatever reason, it is my choice and no one else should be involved in or have responsibility for that decision but me. The contract is between me and my spouse. The only one who can break that contract is me or my spouse. I am certain that Mrs. Shackelford is receiving or at least was awarded alimony, that is the consequence for breaking the “contract” that was between her and her ex-husband. You cannot make/force/intimidate someone to love and stay with you if they don’t want to love and be with you.

  13. Ruth: But wouldn’t you say that your ex-husband is paying a heavy price for his mistake here?

    I think there are a number of problems that individuals have when they choose to cheat. One basic problem we have is a mistake on our society that marriage is about love, when it’s really about loyalty in action. In marriage there will always be times when one party or the other feels a strong attraction to someone else. If one assumes that marriage is about love then feeling like one is falling in love with someone else is very disrorienting. One feels guilty about the emotions and feeling like there is no point to the marriage. I think this can lead to a cycle of guild and frustration which can be extremely destructive.

    On the other hand, if we see marriage as an institution of loyalty in action, then when this attraction happens, we can acknowledge it without guilt, and realize that it’s OK, that it presents challenges but is not a sign that the marriage is now pointless. We can then step forward and avoid crossing lines.

    The other related issue though is that if people think about divorce in terms of leaving one person to be with someone else, then it is very, very easy to do this again. This is why I personally believe that the question of divorce needs to be limited to the four corners of the marriage.

    People who cheat get hurt by the process. The mistake has consequences.

  14. Anne Hamilton says:

    I had a father who was a womaniser, a very unhappy mother, a very unhappy childhood. My mother chose to stay with him, I chose to leave home at 14. He was as much or more responsible for his affairs as the other woman, so was my mother who pretended nothing had happened each time, and instructed her children to not say a word. My sister and I were sent to boarding school after her grabed her breast. God knows what else happened. My mother turned all her children against him as adults, saying he was sexually molesting her. He was 80 something when his neighbour told me he was sexually harrasing her and her 19 year old daughter when I took my mother shopping. I called the police who said the victim had to make the complaint. She was too scared. I told my mother I had called the police and she said I shouldn’t have done that as all his past would come out! and since then, ten years, I have been abused by her and my siblings, my reputation ruined in the family and with people they know. I have walked away. So in this case, three people were to blame, my father, my mother and the other woman. Two sibling have also gone down this path leaving a trail of broken lives. This is what not making a clean break did to one family and numerous strangers.

  15. Paul says:

    I think that 3 out of every 4 attorneys are here in the U.S. and people sue each other too much as it is. My wife is bipolar and had an affair with another bipolar man that lives hudreds of miles away from us in NC! I am not suing him. The pain and humiliation were enough to live through once. I chose to be the better man and forgive.

  16. leslye mahoney says:

    I believe in the law is not a bad idea. Tho I didn’t sue my ex’s mistress I do feel what they went thru is similar to what I experienced. This women was a couple friend who worked in my ex-husband’s business. We socialized together and I too at one point thought that she was getting too close and too involved. I mentioned to my then husband and he went crazy accusing me of me insane and how dare I think something like that. He tried to tell me how dedicated she was to “US” and the business and on and on and on. When he had brain surgery it was necessary to have her more involved running the business and the relationship with the two of them became more involved. She divorced her husband and wanted my life, my son and everything that went with it. I even spoke to her and told her to cut it all out and let her know that she was an “employee” and that he owned the company that gave her a pay check. She managed to convince him that I was the evil one and you get where this is going I had enough since trying to talk to someone, my ex who was due to the surgery to remove a benign tumor in frontal lobe he became mentally and psychologically unstable. I do feel that she caused the alienation and I do wish that my lawyer had used this since maybe it might have changed things if she thought she might be sued for what she was doing. The Karma moment is that they are not together now and he is all alone and has lost family and friends and he has no relationship with his son either, his choice all of it. I have my life, friends and most importantly a wonderful son, so I guess if there is a winner it is me. I received no child support, health insurance or alimony but I did get full legal and physical custody of my son and that was the most valuable thing I could ever have and she too lost her family and her sons who have nothing to do with her. SAD so I do think the law and suing someone over this issue is not so much about revenge or money but making a statement on principle that if you are blatantly going to go after a married man with a family that you might be sue so think twice and carefully before you decide to have an affair with a married man and ruining his and maybe your own family. The question is how is it working for you and is it worth it. PS> I sometimes wished I had sued I could have put the money if I ever got it to good use to raise my son since it has been financially challenging these pass 7 years since the divorce. But you move on and survive and he is a wonderful son so I am more than blessed.

  17. jasmine says:

    That law should be in every state! It may not dissolve cheating but it will discrease it.

  18. Sheri says:

    I agree completely…the law should be in every state. To the guy who sounds like a lawyer….wasn’t there a law that if a couple slept together in Texas ..they were “technically married”. If that one can be put on the books then alienation of affection, breaking up a family is surely a viable option. I guess you can tell which side I am on. My husband of 23 years has only admitted so far to 5 emotional affairs…one of which was to my son’s best friend’s mom! How do you get around that?! When I told him, “the deacon of our church, pillar of the comuunity” he kept brushing me off. We kept having arguments about “her”. He would defend her. She is a drama queen has done this with several other men and only men with successful careers or money. So, I want to know, “Why isn’t this stealing?” In my book it should be such a felony on more than one count!

  19. Maggie says:

    I want to say I believe it should be in every state I agree yes it may not stop people men or women from cheating but it may decrease it. My husband cheated on me after being together for almost 12 years and has had a baby with the other women she new he was married but didnt care. Women who are willing to sleep with a married man and people who are willing to hurt other people like that is not right. NOt only did my husband and this other women crush my heart but what about my children. When someone has a affair Man or Women it a emotional train and when u have children u have to take care of and ur children no matter what and show them u are strong even though mentally u are trying to get through a tuff sutiation and when ur spouse is still coming home to u and trying to make things work yes the other person should back off whats not theres. If u willingly can break up a home and have no heart about it then yes I believe you should have a consuqence as much of the cheating spouse. Often times its only the cheating spouse that is attacked not the women or man who helped it happen they should both feel the heat. If there are children involed Shame on u.

  20. Mags says:

    People’s morals and values and self worth have really gone to hell in a hand basket. I too was cheated on and found out thru an email. I was crushed, humiliated, embrassed, and broken. It took alot of prayers to get me past the hurt, and wanting to hurt them back. Yes, I dreamed of retailiation and would have done anything @ the time to make them pay. However, after 2 long years I have gotten past it and am making a life for myself. I feel much happier that I handled the situation with diginity and maturity. Nothing I would have done would have made a difference in the outcome. He is the one that has to live with what he did to a good woman and I am a true believer that they will both get their just desserts in time. I am at peace with how I handled the divorce and the situation and believe my faith that God would get me thru the tough times has made me a better person.

  21. Angie says:

    I think this is great! My ex cheated on me as well.. it was the absolutely most crushing thing that has ever happened to me!!! I would say make the husband pay out the money and not the other woman. What if the husband cheated with multiple people? Would they all pay out?? I think it is primarily the husband’s responsibility to stay faithful to his wife. If he wants to cheat, let him end the marriage before he actually does.. and before he brings home and gives his wife the std’s!!

  22. Jewelfn says:

    I believe in this law. Today there are too many women who are purposely seeking an older more established man with money, most of them are married of course and the rest never will marry. So they go for the married ones. When a woman chooses to go after a married man, not caring that he has a family and loving wife at home, she deserves to be punished in any way, shape or form there is. Without this law maybe more women will choose the famous Betty Broderick style of punishment, or the dentsit who ran over her husband. Is that a better choice? A woman stays in a loving marriage, helps to build the husband to what he eventually becomes, only to have another woman reap her hard earned rewards. Believe me, I know for a fact that these women exist as I happen to know a few. Disgusting! They don’t want to start at the bottom, they want what they want and they want it NOW! Of course the husband can always say no but really, when a beautiful younger woman actively persues a man without restraint just how many men aren’t going have their egos stroked as their belly’s become flabby and they develop a second chin? It’s like catnip. These women know exactly what they are doing and they are good at it. If we don’t have laws on the books to protect us then what do we have? Nothing. The women who are against this law and keep saying ‘Blame the husband instead’ are either very young, never married, or are women who would do this very thing, go after a married man. If you were married for many years you would feel quite differently than what you do now. Trust me!

  23. Lisa Murphy says:

    Oh boy Dr Phil I do hope I get to pick your brain just for afew moments to help get threw my brain what I already know..just finding hard to do, and must be missing something…

    As I have stated in many groups I have been cheated on more times then the IRS..and I live in Canada..lol. I have done soo much work with this area of my life Im trying to get it into action. I know that people love to blame the OP (other person..women are just as guilty) for the betrayls of the marriage. I know when I got married the minister asked if everyone would help keep tempations from us, to help the marriagge grow and help keep the devils work away..something like that…and this was my first marriage. 13 months later and 2 affairs on his part I was gone..and the girl who babysat the kids the day we got married is one of them..(that is just wrong 15 and 37 year old)

    I stopped getting so caught up in stuff that I couldnt do anything about. My current husband of almost 10 years (july 2nd 2010) has cheated on me with his ex wife, ex girlfriend (has kids with them too, thats how I found out.there kids let it out) another ex gf, hookers, one nighters, and Im even dealing with this crap now..I am now living in a one room, in my house that my tenents are letting me rent. I had everything when I met him..own place,car, furniture, I was doing well after my first marriage. I have rebuilt several times over (husband is also bi polar with possible mood that he just doesnt get empathy) with addictions problems too. Most of this stuff is just coming out. He stuff was taken care of, now I don’t bring in as much as before..so I feel used..
    The truth is, these girls didn’t really owe me anything…HE DOES. He made the promise, and how easy is it for the WS (wondering spouse) to say they are leaving there h/w, not happy have not been, don’t sleep in same room..together out of guilt but no love if they even need to say they are married. It is easier to put blame on the OP because we dont’ really know them, and it is hard to blame someone that we love..and if we put the truth in prospective then that would mean we need to look at ourselves and figure out how this mess got started and what we are going to do to clean it up. The WS will try to play the two against each other, you hate them, them hate you because it takes the direct line of fire away from them..and then there is away to keep both in there lives with someone to complain too.. I don’t totally believe that the one having the affair with the Married person should be the only one to pay out..the WS is the one that broke the contract, and they should not beable to keep all the material things. If the law had it that Im a stay at home wife, taking care of thosethings and my Husband has an affair..He has to keep me in the same living conditions I have become accustumed to because the contract we signed said till death do us part,and the BS is not the one that went else where. Ifthe OP knows and is informed to stay away from the marriage (please people…dont allow anyone to tell you not to contact them..they are only as sick as there secrets) and also..once the affair is out then they could be accountable to. Oh and if I have been working during the time..I still get what I am accustumed too with him paying half of the debt..min. Besides once there is no more laaying around till whenever and the sneeking around are over..the affairs are too.. Its easy to lay in bed all day sneeking around when your wife is at home taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, making there dinner, picking up the baby from daycare, the dog is not barking, one kid has an owwie, and the other has the flu, great.telemarkets calling ooppps thats the collections, because the morgage is due, the hydro behind, when do we get groceries?? oh wait..hello mother in law..great see you soon…now youhave to rush because the inlaws are on the way. Sorry for the rant..but the WS should be the one held accountable, they wanted to stray..let them own it..aand I will own everything else at there expense. That is making the OW pay too if she wants to sticke around, but she would end up with the scarlette letter because everyone would know.

  24. Pat says:

    I do not care if the husband cheated or not. There had to be a predtor waiting in the wings to take advantage of the situation. Period!

  25. Lana Pettit says:

    Response to Dominique’s

    Bravo. What an eloquently written comment. You said it all and oh so classy. Good job.

  26. ngwaga says:

    I think both parties should be punished Dr Phill,when i choose to be married ,and make a vow of forsaking all others,when i respect my spouse ,i have to be tue to them ands do all i can not to defile the marriage bed,it may be hard,but not IMPOSSIBLE,it takes two to tango,some peolple start affairs with people they know very well to be married,so why punish the other man/woman only?both shuold take responsibility for their actions,plese,women,lets respect ourselves and the intitution of marriage,to be a mistresss is betraying your self and just showing the married man that you are worthless,desperate and loose,come on,we can do better than that ladies

  27. Jane says:

    Not sure if this law is the answer, but there needs to be something done – cheaters can NOT continue to have a free pass legally! It makes me sick to hear about cheaters divorcing their spouses with ZERO consequence for destroying their marriages via their cheating!

    Unfortunately, the laws continue to be written to give influential men passes to do just about anything they darn well please while all the rest of us are stuck having to repair the damage these pigs do to so many innocent lives.

    (Probably best to not ask me how I really think about this behavior, eh?)

  28. KathyC says:

    I live in one of those 7 states (NC), and yes, alienation of affection is on the books.

    Should it be erased or enforced? Highly controversial.

    But really, isn’t the root of the problem within the marriage itself?

    I don’t mean to blame the victim, as I’m divorced myself and I understand the pain that goes with knowing your spouse is not what he seems, but I’ve also noticed that marriages that have healthy communication habits are not the marriages that are at risk for alienation of affection.

    On the other hand, before wronged spouses attack me, I must say that sometimes one person in a marriage has all good intentions, but the other one does not. That’s a sad situation, indeed. When a marriage is on the cusp, teetering into infidelity, maybe alienation of affection plays a role. If a marriage is already dead, it doesn’t. Like the movie title, “It’s Complicated.”

  29. KathyC says:

    Oh, man, can I correct my earlier post? It should read:

    I live in one of those 7 states (NC), and yes, alienation of affection is on the books.

    Should it be erased or enforced? Highly controversial. I have known couples on both sides of the issue, and of course there is always the “other woman” who is easy to blame when a marriage goes sour.

    But really, isn’t the root of the problem within the marriage itself?

    I don’t mean to blame the victim, as I’m divorced myself and I understand the pain that goes with knowing your spouse is not what he seems, but I’ve also noticed that marriages that have healthy communication habits are not the marriages that are at risk for alienation of affection.

    On the other hand, before wronged spouses attack me, I must say that sometimes one person in a marriage has all good intentions, but the other one does not. That’s a sad situation, indeed. When a marriage is on the cusp, teetering into infidelity, maybe alienation of affection plays a role. If a marriage is already dead, it doesn’t. Like the movie title, “It’s Complicated.”

  30. leelee says:

    I am glad Mrs. Shackleford won this case, and I hope it stands up on appeal. These women who knowingly go after attached men, no matter if they are happy in their marriages or not, should be made to feel some public humiliation. They don’t back off, even though all marriages go through rough patches, and some of these women are relentless. I am not giving a pass to the husbands who get involved in adultery, either. They have to live with the havoc they have created in their families, and look at the faces of their children and see themselves in their eyes.

  31. Jeanna says:

    I don’t know that such a law would deter an affair from happening but you can bet the perpetrators would definitely think twice before acting on it if they knew there was a chance there sorry carcasses would be hauled into court. It has been my experience (My soon to be ex husband cheated for most of the 21 years we have been married with different women) that it’s the excitement and the adventure that’s such a turn on in the beginning but the moment they are found out, they will turn tail and run, trying to hide their face and their identity in order to avoid the scarlet letter soon attached to their lying behinds! I say the money is just a bonus and you go girl!

  32. Lovette says:

    I would like to have the alienation of affection law back into the play..I DO believe it would STOP a lot of affairs from taking place –due to the fact that (the other women/Man) would be aware that “they ” would Lose “everything” they have and be totally humiliated publicly.. .they’d think twice before slippin’ & dippin–and defiling the mariatial bed–& hurtin a bunch of innocent people–

  33. Anna Kellogg says:

    My family..well is crazy.
    It hasn’t always been so crazy,just since my dad left us.My mom lost it!
    She’s NOT herself at all. It’s sad. My dad try telling me and my three sisters that it’s none our business.I think he’s wrong.It is our business!Since my mom lost her mind and who knows where it is.A couple mouths ago my dad got a townhouse and me and older sister Kianna moved in with him, leaving the littlest Dubie and oldest Kayla behind with my mom at our house.Leaving her was a releave but a heartache to her.She got more depressed,lost tons of weight,can’t eat or sleep.It feels shes taking two steps forward but ten steps back and everything and everyone but my dad falls down with her.I barely talk to my oldest sister.I just wish my family could go back to how it use to be.kiannas getting more wild.My friends are telling me i go to boys for that love im wanting from my dad,so i run to boys? I don’t understand why God has done this to our family.I still have faith in him.Don’t get me wrong.It’s just complicated. If you ask me,I think the Kellogg family needs some counseling.But of course my mom and dad don’t think so.
    Dr. Phil Please HELP us!
    If you see this please Please answer back!
    My emails raedancer16@yahoo.com

  34. Sharon B says:

    I definitely agree with this. My husband had an affair with my BEST FRIEND. Tina and I went shopping together, worked together, went out to dinner with our husbands together, went to a vacation in Vegas, etc…
    Whe hit on my husband and it lead to an affair. My step daughter let me in on all of it. My husband, Kevin, (her Dad) confided in her. I was crushed!! We are now splitting up. I could not deal with it all and needed time. He was to move out and we were going to counseling for 3 months (the length of his lease) and then see where we stood. But, he says one thing and does another….he is a pathological liar and has a gambling problem. So, while I started to go to counseling, he had a girlfriend waiting for him to leave me.
    He cried to me 2 weeks ago saying he was going to commit suicide because I hate him, his daughter doesn’t love him like she used to and his son wants to move away. His daughter left her 2 young babies (3 and 18 months) to come home and make things right with him, and he shunned her for his new girlfriend.
    Yes, I am having a hard time because, although I hate him, I still love him.
    I have been emotional abused for 18 years and it is hard to tell how many affairs he really had….if he can sleep with my best friend, he could sleep with anybody. BUT, my “friend” is the one who really ended my marriage….I would have put up with his emtional abuse for the rest of my life….blessing in disguise?? maybe, but still not what I wanted.
    Sorry I got a little off track but my fingers just kept typing….

  35. A mother says:

    “Alienation of Attention”

    According to the following website (disclaimer: I obtained for understanding of the law and post) http://marriage.about.com/od/legalities/g/alienationdef.htm, alienation of attention was historically codified based on the belief that, “a woman was a husband’s property. Therefore, when a woman was emotionally or sexually involved with another man, she was considered to have been stolen.” So, it was ideally intended as a modern form of feudalistic dueling. (judicial combat) :) . I am going to assume men were cheating back then too (although this was pre sufferage). :) I can understand why the law has been abolished and the notion of reenactment is contested. It has apparently been replaced by the law, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

    Reenactment of the “Alienation of Affection” law could serve as a determent for cheaters. A $9 million settelement would deter most people. But deter as it may, it will not prevent the act. If someone is going to cheat, then something was going awry within the marriage prior to the infidelity. However, it still does not address the underlying issue: why do so many marriages fail? It appears to me, from an objective standpoint, that all classes of society are effected, whether directly or indirectly, by cheating and/or its prospects. No one is immune.

    This brings me back to the law and the legal system itself. I am a double major, philosophy and political science (pre-law track). I had hoped to pursue a law degree in International Law with a focus on Human/Civil Rights. To the global community, we the US, represent a superpower, but there are other countries where people are dying every day, senslelessly. Compared to these countries, I feel privelaged and humble to live in a society that claims to have democratic process. However, I believe our system is flawed. If we have a judicial system predicated on democratic principles, but can’t actualize them, then aside from the fear of death, are we any different from our neighbors abroad? What does that say about our system?

    I am recently divorced (aprx 3 yrs). I believe he cheated, but I have no proof. It was expensive and much of it was unnecessary. It took aprx 1 1/2 yrs for the divorce with some post litigation. My inlaws participated in the divorce in a partition action on my home, which is currently pending litigation. My first attorney sued me for additional attorney’s fees he claims I owe, but refuses to provide my billing when requested. He then attempted in Jan to garnish my child support and alimony (I’m a full time student and unemployed), but I sucessfully deterred him when I had the garnishment dissolved due to head of household status. However, he has recently subopena my financial inforamtion again..????…My second attorney quit my case, after which he allowed my ex to amend for a custody batte, despite receiving temporary attorneys fees. He is also on the board of directors for my local legal aid office, so I cannot receive pro bono help due to a “conflict of interest”. My third attorney joined my case two weeks prior to my trial for the dissolution, I have not heard from him. But of course the divorce is final. During this time, I had to litigate some of my case pro se. My ex was convicted of a misdemeanor some time ago. It was public (news, newspaper, radio, etc) He is also briefly mentioned in a book. *Ironcially, I was home writing an ethics paper for my applied ethics class that I was taking at the time. His parents have money. They paid (its even evidence in our case) for his legal fees, including their own. My ex inlaws even sought grandparent rights for my children, although denied, it hasn’t thwarted their efforts. I was a stay-at-home mother, president of a local moms club and volunteer at my childrens school.

    I’ve been harrassed, and my jurisdiction is compromised. Where is my right to a fair trial? Why is that only those who can afford litigation and/or representation, be allowed to control the case? Why is collusion not frowned upon? Why do people not care that it is inconsistent with democratic principles and unconstitutional. I know, I know, its a civil case. Due process is currently only applicable in criminal cases. Or civil cases that have the money to challenge them constitutionally with the supreme court. What about the everyday person? Or is it just our lot in life, that our circumstances are supposed to be this way because we maintain the balance between rich and poor? Is it our lot, that our voices go unheard and/or ignored? Is it our lot, that our children take these examples and perpuate them?

    The whole entire time, and still, I hear the words, “in the best interest of the children”. Is it not in their best interest that they should be with me when their father is not (first right of refusal, which is not practiced, nor was it granted)? Is it not in their best interest that I be allowed to finish my education to provide for them? Is it not in their best interest that I maintain their home (from birth, 8 yrs)? Especially when my inlaws own a home more than, at least, 4 times the worth of mine. Just because people have more money than others does not mean that they share they same definition of love, or compassion.

    With all that said….I think everyone is entitled to an opportunity for a fair trial, to have their voice heard. And, if you can’t afford to do it in court, blog it. :) . As for the “Alienation of Attention”, I think the law is narrowly limited to infidelity cases, but its name could represent a broad number of legal cases (perhaps even call “attention” to those cases that are “aleinated”).

    To Catherine, I sympathize with you. My mother-in-law allows, or has allowed, her neighbor to watch my children while she runs errands. I do not know them, only what my child has mentioned in conversation. :)

  36. A mother says:

    P.S. I meant Alienation of Affection (insert everywhere I incorrectly used the term). :)

  37. jessica says:

    I don’t necessarily believe in this particular law and the way it’s used. However, I do believe that cheating spouses and their mistress’ should be held accountable for the damage they do and the chaos they create. When you enter into a marriage it is a binding contract above all others, so why is it so damn easy to break that contract or even to get out of it for that matter. On the other hand I believe it shouldn’t be so easy to get married either. Anyways, I believe there should be consequences for this type of immoral behavior because these type of actions hurt so many.

  38. Jessica Rodman says:

    This is a terrible law! This woman should not have sued the other woman she should have divorced her husband. Do people even listen to both sides of the story before asuming that the man’s a pig or the other woman is a skank. Maybe the wife is not who she was when they were married and the husband has reason to not love her anymore and now the husband has fallen in love with someone else which is a beautiful thing (to find happyness again). Maybe the man was a jerk and this woman should divorce him but fact is the other woman is not what caused this marriage to end and she should not be sued and if the girl was a skank then you divorce your man and let him live with his mistake or work it out and forget about the other woman but their should be no legal law to punish someone for something like this.

  39. Jessica Rodman says:

    Hey, I just wanted to leave another comment so people can understand what I’m trying to say. I don’t believe that this law is a good law but please don’t think that means I don’t care that this woman is hurt by what has happened to her or that I think cheating is O.K. I was just saying that sueing the other woman is not the best way to handle things. Personaly, I don’t like the idea of cheating on someone and that you should divorce someone first or break up with them before doing so and to try and hurt as little feelings as possible in a situation like this but I don’t think that the other woman is what is destroying this marriage. If the marriage was perfect then the man would never have cheated on her and personaly if I had a choice I would want to be with the person that makes me happiest rather than spare someones feelings not that I would like hurting the person. Also, I must be honest with people who are reading this comment. I am only 15 and have never felt the hurt of being cheated on and honestly can not say exactly how I would handle it until I’m in the situation although I hope I handle it with a mature, smart and a well-thought-out understanding decision but please don’t discourage my opinoin based on my age and lack of experianced for I have thought about moral habbits and many sticky situations including this one that I may have to deal with in the future since I was about 13 and consider myself to be a well-rounded teenager. Hope you consider my opinion and if you are in a situation like this good luck on desiding what you are goin to do.

  40. Gale Gordon says:

    Hello Dr. Phil,
    I am a pediatrican and a CASA volunteer here in Los Angeles. On your show about Family court you showed pictures of Chrildrens Court and Casa.
    Family court is different from Childrens Court. Childrens court is by and large good. Family court is a mess and has been so for years. HELP–can someone get rid of this “alienation” SYNDROME STUFF?? gALE gORDON

  41. Annie Kobus says:

    I feel an individual that knowingly becomes intimately involved with a married person who is still living with and sexually active with their spouse should be accountable for the destruction to the marriage and any financial or emotional damage caused by such an affair. It is a home invasion of sorts worse than burglary becasue the item stolen is the sanctity of the marriage. The lives of innocent children can be harmed beyond repair and those who hurt little children should be accountable. I do feel the cheating spouse should loose any custody in addition to paying damages to the surviving spouse to the same extent as the lover.

  42. jennifer says:

    Good for her for suing! I only wish I had had that option. It was’nt about the money, it was about the loss of a dream, it was about all the hurt and humiliation that she suffered, it was about the end of a life as she knew it. If this law was re-enacted, no it probably would’nt stop affairs, but at least you could hold people accountable, and the people who got hurt in the process (the spouses who were cheated on), would’nt be the only ones paying the price!

  43. Karen Everett says:

    My husband of 26 years is having an affair with the town gossip, she has broken up MANY families, now she has ATTATCHED herself to my husband. He started seeing her in 1996. She has alienated my children, he chose her over them, my oldest will have nothing to do with him (& I don’t blame her,) At christmas she gets a present on the 25th but I have to wait till feb. or march then you wonder who picked it out him or her. He sees her every day after work, then comes home to “the 2nd choice”. The thing is when I was growing up her father raped me, forced me to have oral sex with him, now my husband is having an affair with this “THING”. We live in a very small town & he does not hide the fact that he is having an affair with her. She was telling everyone at work that when all 3 of our girls were older than 21 that he is going to divorce me & marry her, well CANDY, they are all over 21.

  44. martin says:

    Everyone’s opinion on love is different. In the catholic church their is seperation of marriage, its called anallment. Its basically getting a divorce. I believe the cheater ha to settle down eventually. The best is to move on. I got cheated on with my last gf. I moved on, in my heart, she has no choice to. If I find another one and she has no one, she better not call. She has to find out life on her own. My mom taught me that trick. See how the other person can defeated with out even throwing a punch?

  45. Anonymous says:

    It’s hard to say, since I have never been in such a situation, and am young, but I do definitely see what everyone is saying.

    Men or women who cheat are responsible, but so is the OP (other person), they too should be held accountable. I wouldn’t say the law should require that they be sued per se, but, SOME kind of legal action should be enforced. So that the victim will have something to fall back on. Like I said, not suing per se (unless somehow it’s necessary), but definitely something within the law that states the repurcussions of adultery.

    Cheating is completely vile and wrong. I have no sympathy for people who cheat. Sure, they can list off all the excuses they want, but in the end all they did was cheat cheat cheat. If there are problems in the marriage, they should work it out as much as they can to find where they stand, how to cope with the problems, and what they can do about them. To just easily say “I want a divorce, I give up” without even fighting for the marriage is really just sad. No marriage is perfect. Every couple have their set of problems and/or baggage.

    Let’s not forget the women, or men, who actually pursue married men or women, even when they know fully well that the couple is happy and in love. That is just sick. Again, I have no sympathy for them. It’s one thing to fantasize, but to actively pursue that? Unbelievable. Do we have no morals anymore?

    Anyway, whether or not this law should be enforced is a bit of a mystery. But like I said, if some modifications were made to it, because for the most part it DOES teach a bit of a lesson that says “You going to cheat? HERE’S THE CONSEQUENCE!” and whammy. It may not stop everyone who would cheat, but, it could be something to enforce.

    Oh yes, and I agree with what a couple of people said here, that if a man or woman can just say “I want a divorce!” for the sole purpose of being with someone else, then…yeah, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

    And also, Dr. Phil, as you say a lot about the cheating issue, “If he does it with you, he’ll do it TO you”, which really makes a lot of sense. It gives them a sense of “Wow, I did it once and it worked, now I can do it again!” and whatnot.

    So really, the cheaters will eventually get what they deserve. In time, but they will.

  46. As someone who lives in North Carolina and who deals with divorcing women as a coach/therapist and financial planner, I think it is important to know the rest of what happens here. It is not just the other woman or man who gets slammed, it also can be friends who knew the “man” was married and still encouraged the relationship by lying for him, covering the affair up, providing an apartment or some other place for the rendezvous. And while divorce is in general, no fault, if there is proven infidelity it has immediate impact on the husband (or wife) to.

    Alimony is automatically awarded to the jilted spouse or removed from the spouse if they were the person having the affair. It can effect the length of the alimony, the amount of alimony and it provides for punitive damages. People forget that this law is gender neutral. Either party can file. I don’t know what will happen in the long run, it just got started being used again about 10 years ago or so but I can say that clients I see now are not dating until some form of formal separation agreement is completed and addresses this issue. They do think twice.

    You know, when I see the comments about men being vulnerable because of midlife crisis, I get nauseous. It is giving a pass to an adult not a child. If you really believe a man is not in control of his libido and can therefore be forgiven and the woman be treated like a villain, it is a really screwy way of looking at gender issues. Women are not either inherently more or less responsible than the men and they can be and often are just as sexual. Bad behavior needs to be recognized for what it is not excused for some lame reason.

    I was teaching at the University of North Carolina when a young woman who went to a frat party got raped (not the Durham Duke case) by more than one young man. She did everything she was supposed to do, went to the hospital, had pictures taken, filed charges with the university etc. She was intoxicated, which should not be a surprise and a freshman. But after a lot of brouhaha, the boys were exhonerated because she was thought to have brought it on herself by her presence and drinking at the party and her clothing.

    If I were a man, I would be insulted at the idea that my penis controlled me. And if for any reason that would be true, I personally would never vote for another male for any office in any city, state or federal election. All these jerks who are screaming about God and morality and having sex with hookers or traveling down to Argentina to see their soul mate, or covering up their same sex liaisons while voting against gay rights need to be held responsible. For above all else they are liars and can’t be trusted to do what we need to have done because they are so controlled by their sexuality.

    Remember what they used to say about why women should never be president? Well if this excuse is true then men can’t be trusted to make good judgements because they have a penis and it interferes with their thinking and their morality.

    Anyway, people here have raised this law up on many occasions, the last being the 2008 election and it has not been repealed. I would say it is because NC is a southern state and therefore behind the times, but actually, NC is pretty close to dealing with surrogacy, gay marriage, and a lot of other hot topics and is already way ahead of places like Florida for instance and some northern states in areas of equitable distribution. In NC for example, wives are assumed to have an interest in the family business or professional practice particularly in long marriages and the valuation of that business is taken into consideration in determining financial settlement. If women have a good attorneys and financial planners, they won’t be trading away liquid non taxable assets for assets that might look like things are equal but can’t be maintained because there isn’t any money to pay for them (like the family home). There are loads of states who don’t pay attention to that.

    So I am not so certain that infidelity slapdowns are necessarily a bad thing, just as violence or verbal abuse are bad things and bear consequences. That is what we are talking about here, consequences and both spouses are responsible along with their paramours for their actions. Maybe if they get their hands slapped, they will think twice about doing it in the future.

  47. What about this Law but, regarding to In law Interference???
    My X In laws came between me and my husband and cost us our marriage.
    Their son was the Love of my Life…… We have two children from our ten year marriage.
    Extremely Sad Situation.. They also, cost their daughter her marriage because of their controlling Interference with her also…

  48. What about this Interference Law but, regarding In Laws??
    My Ex husbands controlling parents cost me a ten year marriage with two children Involved..
    Their Son was truly the Love of my Life.. “Very sad situation” now they are trying to control one of my teen sons.. and spoil his life. a lot of money and brain washing Involved.
    They also cost their daughter her marriage as well.
    Both my ex husband and his sister have since passed away. These In laws have lost their only two children in the world to accidents **14 months apart, in 2004 and 2006 and are still not decent to anyone, now they are working on ruining their grandchildren through money and brainwashing… Such an unhealthy and SAD situation……

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