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What is the 'alienation of affection' law?

Couples experience marital conflict for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons marriages end in divorce are breakdowns in communication, money issues and infidelities. While communication and money issues usually leave the divorcing spouses sharing the blame on their marriage woes, in Illinois scorned spouses may be able to hold someone else responsible for their marital conflict if due to an affair.

This law is known as the alienation of affection law and can still be used in seven states, including Illinois, to hold a third party responsible for the breakdown of a marriage. The law is meant to hold those responsible who interfere with a marriage and cause conflict. While there is just a handful of states that entertain these lawsuits, only the plaintiff needs to reside in one of them. It doesn't matter where their spouse's paramour lives, if they contributed to the problem, they can be sued.

It is believed that most alienation of affection lawsuits generally don't make it into court. Many times they are settled before the public gets wind of it, especially when the defendant is a public figure or another high profile status.

For alienation of affection cases to be valid, the plaintiff must show that they have suffered a loss as a result of their spouse's infidelities. Even if the spouses are working together to repair their marriage, or collaboratively divorcing, they can still bring about an alienation of affection suit and may be awarded damages.

Many individuals and state officials do not agree with the alienation of affection law. Some people think that instead of protecting the sanctity of marriage, it works against it. In states that offer it, there are attorneys who will take on an alienation of affection lawsuit and advocate for their client's rights. Here in Illinois, alienation of affection cases may not be common but defiantly require the skill of an experienced family law attorney.

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