North Carolina has been in the news lately over a controversial, and antiquated tort, “Alienation of Affections”. Without a law school discussion over the merits of the tort, this seem to be a good time to discuss the practical realities of its outcomes. While everybody sits up a bit when they hear $750,000, it should be noted that most of the time judgments of this nature are not worth the paper they are written on.
When you sue an individual the amount you receive in compensation becomes a judgment. Unless that person is insured (which almost any defendant in an alienation of affections lawsuit will “NOT” be) or independently wealthy, you will often have a difficult time collecting the first dollar.
North Carolina law does not allow a debtor to have their wages garnished to satisfy a judgment, and while there are ways you can execute on the personal and real property of that debtor, it can be a difficult process.
Overall, I would think it is fair to say that large, uninsured judgments typically stay unpaid for many, many years, if not forever. Therefore, it is important for your attorney to be upfront with you before you move forward with any type of lawsuit, but particularly a suit for alienation of affections.
Many times you will end up paying a lawyer more than you will ever collect. As an attorney, in the business of helping people, I hate seeing a vulnerable client, hurting from the pain of a marriage ending affair, be further devastated down the road when they realize they have spent tens of thousands of dollars collecting a piece of paper more suited for a monopoly board than a bank account.
Written by Clif Smith