Archive for the ‘Mississippi Alienation of Affection’ Category

Alienation of Affection in Mississippi

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s frustrating when the person you believe ruined your marriage simply walks away with no repercussions whatsoever. But wait, you live in Mississippi—one of the seven states which has stubbornly held on to the tort of alienation of affection. The law stems back to the admittedly scary times when a wife was deemed the possession of her husband allowing a scorned husband to pursue his wife’s lover with the law rather than a gun. The modern-day translation of alienation of affection generally boils down to either money or revenge—or both. Among the states which still recognize alienation of affection (Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Illinois and Hawaii) awards topping a million dollars have been handed down to aggrieved spouses. Small consolation, but should your spouse cheat, it could be better for you if he or she cheats with a home-wrecker who is financially well-off.

Mississippi Alienation of Affection Cases

Consider the case of Mississippi’s own Representative Chip Pickering who, after serving for over a decade in Congress, cited the desire to devote more time to his wife and five children as his reason for abstaining from the run for re-election in 2008. As it turns out, Chip possibly should have been spending more time at home prior to this decision; his wife filed an alienation of affection suit against her husband’s alleged girlfriend, a prominent socialite, stating she (the wife) had suffered severe damage to her husband’s affection and consortium as a direct result of the defendant’s reckless and negligent behavior.  

In order to avoid the media publicity frenzy the parties involved agreed to keep the details of the case private, but considering the financial assets of the alleged paramour, speculation is rife. While Pickering may have been the most high-profile case, the most well-known case of alienation of affection in Mississippi involved Johnny Valentine, a Marshall County resident. Valentine received an award of $750,000 after suing the man who impregnated his wife, destroying his marriage in the process.

Alienation of Affection—a Touchy Subject in Mississippi

The matter of alienation of affection in the state of Mississippi is considered a very delicate one, legislatively speaking. While opponents believe such suits result in already-antagonistic divorces becoming even more contentious, proponents in this conservative state believe cheaters should be held accountable. Legislative opposition to the tort surfaces from time to time with the tort surviving two major litigation campaigns for its abolition in 1999 and 2007. Two cases in 2011, however underscore the fact that overall the Mississippi Supreme Court is comfortable with the alienation of affection tort.

One of the 2011 cases involved a husband who filed suit against his wife’s alleged paramour after gaining access to her cell phone which showed hundreds of texts and photos exchanged. Although the defendant lived in Louisiana and argued he was never “physically together” with the wife in Mississippi while she was married, the courts disagreed. Finding the man’s e-mails, phone calls and text messages constituted “sufficient minimum contact” for their purpose, the court upheld the original finding of alienation of affection.

Things to Consider Before Filing an Alienation of Affection Suit

Before you jump on the alienation of affection bandwagon, consider that in order to prevail in such a case you must be able to prove wrongful conduct occurred. You must then be able to definitively tie that wrongful conduct to the dissolution of your marriage due to loss of your spouse’s affection. While Mississippi courts do not require you to prove adultery, that proof would certainly help your case; adultery is a presumption of malice, allowing punitive damages as well as compensatory damages. The statute of limitations for alienation of affection cases is three years—a time which is not subject to the discovery rule.

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