Strong emotions are very common after discovering a spouse has been unfaithful. Adultery is one of the most common causes of divorce in the United States, and a spouse who has recently learned his or her husband or wife has cheated may wonder if there is legal action available. Only seven states still uphold “homewrecker” laws for cases like these: Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah. If you experience adultery and you reside in one of these states, you may be able to take legal action against your spouse’s lover for “criminal conversation” or “alienation of affection.” Contact a divorce lawyer in West Chester, to schedule a free case evaluation and get your legal questions answered.
Can I Sue for Adultery in Pennsylvania?
If you reside in a state that allows you to file a lawsuit for criminal conversation or alienation of affection, it’s crucial to understand these terms. Criminal conversation describes a spouse engaging in sexual relations with a person outside the marriage during the marriage. Proving this usually requires hiring a private investigator or gathering evidence to clearly prove that the other spouse engaged in adulterous sexual activity during the marriage. Alienation of affection describes a third party’s interference with a marriage that causes a breakdown of the love and affection within that marriage.
Proving alienation of affection is a bit tricky, and the plaintiff will need to prove that he or she and his or her spouse shared a loving and affectionate marriage before the third party’s interference, and the third party knowingly engaged in destructive behaviors to cause the marriage to fail. The plaintiff must also prove actual harm resulted from this behavior.
Can I Sue for Emotional Distress in a Divorce?
Typically, when someone wishes to sue for emotional distress, they think of the stress that arises as a result of some sort of physical trauma. For example, a victim struck and severely injured by a drunk driver may file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for emotional distress caused by the physical injuries.
There is no doubt that one spouse can cause severe emotional distress to the other during the course of a marriage. This could be done through isolation of one spouse from their family and friends, expecting sexual activities to occur even if the other spouse is not comfortable with it, criticizing a spouse continually, controlling a person’s finances, and more.
Pennsylvania law does allow for victims to sue for emotional distress even if they did not suffer direct physical injuries. If there was intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, it may be possible to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
The standard of meeting the requirements to sue for emotional distress in a divorce is high. Citing the case Bartanus v. Lis, 332 Pa. Sup. Ct. 48 (1984), “One who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress, and if bodily harm to the other person results from it…”
Typically, a person must have been harmed or witnessed harm occur to a loved one in order to sue for emotional distress damages in Pennsylvania.
Need Legal Advice? Contact a Family Law Attorney in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law also allows adultery to factor into property separation as well, so an adulterous spouse stands to lose much more from a divorce than a faithful one. Divorces can be messy and emotional, but anyone facing such a situation will benefit tremendously from hiring an experienced divorce attorney to handle his or her case.
What if a Prenuptial Agreement Was Violated?
If you do not reside in one of the seven states that allow you to file a lawsuit for criminal conversation or alienation of affection, you may have alternative options for recovery if you and your spouse had a prenuptial agreement. Such agreements typically stipulate the conditions for ending the marriage, and adultery is a common inclusion. If your spouse violated your prenuptial agreement by engaging in an extramarital affair, the agreement may not give you grounds to sue your spouse, but it can provide financial relief during the divorce.
When you file for a no-fault divorce, the state’s laws will determine which property is community property of the marriage and which is individual property belonging to each of the spouses. It’s possible that a jury may decide to rule in favor of the faithful spouse, potentially limiting the amount the adulterous spouse will receive from the divorce. If you are considering a prenuptial agreement or have one and want to make sure it will suffice as protection in the event of adultery, consult an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible.
Prenups – Is your agreement valid?
Prenuptial agreements can be good tools for a couple to use if they are considering marriage. They help establish the financial rights of you and your potential spouse in the event that a divorce may occur in the future. However, there are various reasons that a prenuptial agreement may not be valid. This can include:
- No written agreement – All prenuptial agreements must be in writing.
- Not properly executed – Both parties to the prenuptial agreement must sign the document before the wedding.
- You were pressured – No prenuptial agreement is valid if one party was pressured by the other to sign it.
- No time to consider agreement – If one spouse asked the other to sign a bunch of documents quickly without giving them time to read it (or have an attorney review it), the prenuptial agreement may not be valid.
- Invalid provisions – Prenuptial agreements cannot cover certain things such as child support obligations, child custody, visitation, or other agreements that would violate Pennsylvania law.
- False or incomplete information – Prenuptial agreements are only valid when there is full disclosure by both spouses concerning their income, assets, and liabilities. If one spouse withheld information or included information that was not true, the agreement will not be valid.
If you are unsure of whether or not your prenuptial agreement is valid, seek assistance from my Pennsylvania divorce attorney today.
Fault-Based Divorce in PA
While Pennsylvania does not allow spouses to sue for criminal conversation or alienation of affection, the state does allow spouses to pursue fault-based divorces. In a fault-based divorce, the plaintiff may argue that the other spouse’s adultery caused the breakdown of the marriage; therefore, the other spouse is at fault for the divorce. Under Pennsylvania law, a spouse who engages in adultery may not receive alimony from a divorce. The plaintiff will need to prove the adultery with convincing evidence and that the adultery occurred during the marriage. Additionally, the plaintiff may not have also cheated; otherwise the plaintiff may not file for a fault-based divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Why contact Ciccarelli Law Offices?
If you are going through a divorce after your spouse committed adultery, seek legal assistance today. At the Ciccarelli Law Offices, our qualified and experienced divorce attorneys are ready to handle cases throughout Pennsylvania. We understand that divorce cases involving adultery can be incredibly emotional. We are dedicated to helping you get through this so you can get back on track. When you need a divorce attorney in Pennsylvania, you can contact us for a consultation of your case by clicking here or by calling 610-692-8700.