JOURNAL RALEIGH BUREAU
Published: October 5, 2009
RALEIGH - In courtrooms, it's called "alienation of affection" or "criminal conversation."
In love, it's called cheating.
Whatever you call it, the opportunity to sue over it just got narrower.
A new state law, which went into effect last week, limits the circumstances in which a spouse's extramarital lover can be sued.
Under the new law, if a married couple is separated, any extramarital affair that goes on during the period of separation is no longer grounds for a lawsuit.
Critics of the change say that it removes a deterrent to adultery and weakens a long-established public policy meant to protect the sanctity of marriage.
Supporters say that the concept of "alienation of affection" is a relic of a time when women were considered the property of their husbands. Nowadays, these lawsuits are often used by one spouse to harass the other spouse through the court system or to try to gain leverage during a messy divorce.
One such lawsuit was at the heart of the case of Dr. Kirk Alan Turner, the Clemmons dentist who was accused of murdering his wife. Turner was acquitted in August by a Davie County jury, which found that Turner stabbed his wife to death in self-defense.