A scorned spouse in North Carolina won $750,000 in a lawsuit against his ex-wife’s lover — a judgment that is permitted as part of a so-called “alienation of affection” law in the state, according to a new report.
Kevin Howard, of Pitt County, won the judgment in August after a judge ruled that another man was responsible for tearing apart his marriage — which ultimately ended in a painful divorce, local station WITN reported Tuesday.
Howard told the station that he knew and once trusted his wife’s new paramour.
“He came to my house and ate dinner with us,” Howard said. “We shared stories. We talked about [our] personal lives.”
At first, the new beau laughed about the lawsuit, Howard’s attorney Cindy Mills told the outlet.
“I said, ‘Do you find something funny about this process? And he said, ‘Yes…I think it’s funny that your client would sue me over this,’” Mills said. “And for people who have that perception of this [law], that’s a very dangerous perception to have. Because the same person who laughed in that deposition, that defendant now has a $750,000 judgment against [him], so I don’t think he’s laughing now.”
Howard told the station that he believes in the sanctity of marriage and his divorce was almost unbearable — “like someone calling you and telling you that a family member had tragically died.”
“She had originally told me that she wanted a divorce because I work too much, wasn’t around to be there,” he said. “I talked about that as part of my mistake in the situation, but it was like a punch in the gut, because I thought I had this trust for 12 years and love.”
Besides North Carolina, alienation of affection laws exist in Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and North Carolina. Many other states have repealed it.
“It’s just like a personal injury case,” Mills told the station. “If someone has a wreck and hurt you very badly, you get damages for that. Marital courts are the same premise. You get damages if someone injures your marriage.”
It’s to be seen whether Howard will ever see a payout — if the defendant can’t pay up, it will turn into debt owed and appear on his credit report. Attorney Paul Jenkins told the station that’s why such a law should not exist.
“Are we backing up the court system for a week or two weeks to have the jury selection, jury trial, and for the plaintiff to spend tens of thousands of dollars to end up getting a piece of paper they’re never going to collect against?” Jenkins asked.
But Howard said he didn’t file the suit for the money.
“I feel that it’s very important that people understand that the sanctity of marriage is important especially in this day and age when people question everyone’s morals,” he told the station. “And the state backed me up on it.”