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Abolishment of Heartbalm Actions ( a/k/a Alienation Of Affection)

What is Alienation of Affection?alienation of affection

Simply defined, Alienation of Affection is a legal action initiated by a deserted spouse against a third party, who may be responsible for the failure of a marriage. The defendant is typically the other spouse’s love interest, although cases have involved third parties who are family members, advisors, therapists and clergy members – any individual who may have advised the spouse to seek separation and/or divorce. Additionally, other examples resulted from this type of action include a breach of promise to marry. If a person enters into an engagement to marry but then cancels it, Alienation of Affection could be applicable.

Criminal conversation is a legal term used for the cause of action brought against a person who is accused of having sex with the plaintiff’s spouse, also know as “heart balm” lawsuits. “Heart balm lawsuits” were prompted because the act of suing was considered a balm applied by the legal system, soothing the emotional pain of the plaintiff. Up to 2015, Illinois was among the group of states that allowed “heart balm” lawsuits, although such causes of action came to an end in Illinois on January 1, 2016.

Alienation of Affection claims were difficult to establish because they consist of several elements and create several defense actions. To succeed on a claim, several topics need to be established that show issues such as:

  • The marriage was previously based on love shared between the spouses
  • The spousal love was alienated and destroyed
  • Defendant’s malicious conduct contributed to or caused the loss of affection

It is not necessary to show that the intent of the defendant was to set out to destroy the relationship – only that he or she engaged in acts that would have an impact on the marriage. The defendant’s defense against an alienation claim can be shown that the defendant did not know about the marriage. It is not a defense that the guilty spouse consented to the defendant’s conduct. But prior marital problems do not establish a defense in this action unless the unhappiness had reached a level of diminishing love between the spouses.

A Step in the Right Direction

Heart Balm actions were historically permitted under common law. Although Illinois previously attempted to abolish those causes of actions during the 1930s, the Supreme Court deemed an act of abolishment of heart balm actions was unconstitutional. The decision was based on the argument that the statute was overly inclusive or unclearly titled and there was no clear structure to limit specific rights.

Since 1947, heart balm actions have been permitted in Illinois, however there is a belief that the statutes are firmly rooted in traditional gender-based bias that has been outdated in the society of today. Since society has recognized that women and men should have equal rights, “heart balm” actions are considered antiquated and based on the notion that women and men were unequal. Additionally, “heart balm” actions have earned a reputation for creating contentious litigation and the damages awarded were significant; therefore, they have been rarely relied upon in recent years. What remains is the actions were difficult to justify in the courts. For these reasons, the abolishment of these actions in Illinois is a step in the right direction to catch up with the litigation of other states that abolished “heart balm” years ago.

Hiring the right lawyer for you is essential to achieving a settlement or resolution that is best for everyone involved. The legal team at Sherer Law Offices can help you as you face marriage difficulties. Our attorneys can assist you with changes in Illinois law and help you to determine proper remedies for every situation in divorce-related cases.

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