When Kevin Howard found out his wife was two-timing him, he was heartbroken. He also wanted revenge. He found justice through an obscure law called ‘Alienation of Affection.’ In other words, his wife’s affection was stolen. According to this law, being a homewrecker isn’t just immoral; it’s illegal. Howard sued his wife’s lover and won $750,000.
‘Alienation of Affection’ laws are a holdover from another time. According to Howard’s lawyer, Cynthia Mills, it originates from old English law. Long ago, when women were legally considered the property of their husband, financial damages were demanded if the wife was “stolen.”
During the 1800s, these kinds of laws were common in the United States. Now, just six of the fifty US states still have these laws on the books. North Carolina, where Howard lives, is one of them.
When Howard’s wife’s lover heard that he was being sued, he thought it was a joke. But according to Howard’s lawyer, with a $750,000 debt to pay, he’s not laughing anymore.
He might have actually gotten off easy. In 2015, Keith King found out his wife Danielle was cheating on him after looking at texts on her phone. Danielle says their marriage was already on the rocks when she met Francisco Huizar. King’s confrontation with his wife’s lover was caught on video. When he went to Huizar’s house to find his wife, he was roughed up by the younger man. In the video, King pleads, “She’s my wife man. She’s my wife.” King also used North Carolina’s Alienation of Affection law to win eight million dollars from Huizar.
It isn’t just men taking advantage of this antiquated law. In 2010, Cynthia Shackelford successfully sued her husband’s lover for nine million dollars.
These types of cases are not as rare as you might think. There are over 200 Alienation of Affection lawsuits in North Carolina a year. While no one likes a cheater, money can’t mend a broken heart. And isn’t it high time a law based on women as property is left in the history books?