When someone divorces after a spouse engages in an extra marital affair, they may wonder if they can pursue a claim for alienation of affection against the third party – once regarded as the ‘homewrecker’. Not surprisingly, many who have endured the pain of infidelity resulting in the breakdown of their marriage want some measure of compensation for broken promises and ruined dreams they believe were caused by someone who disregarded their marriage.
Indeed, a handful of states allow claims of alienation of affection, which might lead one to think twice before making a move. Just recently a North Carolina man was awarded a whopping $750,000 in a lawsuit filed against his wife’s lover for alienation of affection. This little known claim recognized in just six states, allowed the spurned spouse to sue the person that caused his marriage to flounder after proving that his marriage was happy until the other man – a coworker – came along. A strong believer in the sanctity of marriage, the husband felt that the betrayal should not only be an ethical or moral issue, but also have legal consequences too. No doubt, a sentiment shared by many who have been through it.
Although Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and the state of North Carolina allow claims of alienation of affection, other states including Illinois do not. Despite the fact that many divorces are caused – at least indirectly – when a spouse cheats, there is no legal action to pursue against the third party for adultery claims occurring on or after the January 1, 2016 when reforms to the divorce law abolished such claims. Cases of adultery before that date may be worth discussing with an attorney.
Illinois is a no fault divorce state, which means the days of having to prove abuse such as mental cruelty, adultery or habitual substance abuse are gone. The only grounds for divorce are “irreconcilable differences” that have led to the “irretrievable breakdown in the marriage” where “efforts at reconciliation have failed” and “all future efforts would be impractical or not be in the best interests of the family”.
The days of exposing a dirty rat in court to even the score somewhat, or going after the “other woman” or man for compensation have fallen to the wayside. However, Illinois law does provide the equitable division of marital property which may include the recovery of dissipated assets a spouse may have spent on an extramarital affair in addition to a fair share of marital assets. If any marital funds were used to make payments for or maintain separate property such as a home or even sweat equity put into a spouse’s separate business may be subject to property division – leave no stone unturned. Depending on the circumstances, Illinois spousal maintenance may be awarded, which can allow a blindsided spouse to get back on their feet after an unexpected divorce. If there are children involved, there are provisions for temporary and long term child support and a road map for parenting time and responsibility that prioritizes the well-being of the children at various stages of development.
Infidelity is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a marriage and a family. It is one of the top reasons cited for divorce. If you are considering divorce, working with a compassionate and knowledgeable Illinois family law attorney that has experience with issues surrounding marital infidelity can help you. Contact the law offices of Ronald L Bell & Associates PC for assistance today at 847-495-6000.