'Homewrecker' lawsuit results in $750G award for jilted husband who sued over wife's affair

A woman’s lover was ordered to pay $750,000 in damages to her ex-husband after a judge in North Carolina found under the state’s antiquated “homewrecker” law that he’s legally responsible for breaking up a more than decade-long marriage, according to reports.

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Speaking Wednesday, Kevin Howard told Greenville’s WNCN-TV he filed a lawsuit against the man who had an affair with his wife over "alienation of affections," a common law tort that dates to the 18th century, when women were considered their husbands' property.

North Carolina is one of six states that still honor what’s been dubbed “homewrecker” or “heart balm” lawsuits under the tort that are brought by a spouse against a third party alleged to be liable for damaging the marriage, most often resulting in divorce.

“I filed this case because I believe it’s very important that people understand that sanctity of marriage is important, especially in this day and age when people question everyone’s morals, people question everyone’s liability as a person,” Howard told WNCN.

“I filed this case because I believe it’s very important that people understand that sanctity of marriage is important, especially in this day and age when people question everyone’s morals, people question everyone’s liability as a person.” 

— Kevin Howard, jilted husband

A Pitt County Superior Court judge in August ordered Greg Jernigan to pay the $750,000 in damages to Howard after court documents stated Jernigan seduced Howard’s wife while she was his teaching mentor, eventually initiating an affair that broke up an otherwise happy 12-year marriage, The Washington Post reported.

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Under the "alienation of affections" law, a plaintiff must prove the marriage was happy before a third party intervened. Also dubbed the “mother-in-law” tort, the law does not imply a sexual affair had to have occurred, solely that an outside individual persuaded a married person to seek divorce.