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Alientation of Affections Laws

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To what extent are Alienation of Affections laws moral? They seem to presuppose that the spouse who was involved in the extramarital affair is less responsible for her (or his) actions than an individual ought to be. After all individuals are volitional beings who are responsible for their own choices. Perhaps these laws are only justified if the third party initiated some sort of force against the cheating spouse (e.g. physical threats, blackmail, fraud, misinformation.)

Needless to say, charging a third party with alienation of affections does not legally imply that the cheating spouse is entirely innocent. Nevertheless, the underlying principles still seem suspect.

What do you guys think?

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I do not know much about this topic, but after reading your link, it sounds utterly ridiculous to me. It's not the third party's fault that the marriage failed. The marriage probably failed prior to the adulterous incident. (Had the marriage been healthy, one spouse wouldn't have been out seeking another companion, right?) It seems to be yet another case of blaming someone else for one's own problems. In general, there seems to be a lack of personal responsibility in today's society.

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I agree. If the third party imposes no force on either spouse, then the court has no right to punish the third party. People can think for themselves. The third party does not strip the cheating spouse of the ability to judge, assess, and act.

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The alienation of affection laws, which have been abolished in almost every state, were originally aimed at keeping one man away from the wife of another. The laws were based, in part, on the idea that a man had an actual property interest in his wife. To that extent, the laws are immoral.

The closest legitimate law would be "tortious interference with a contract". In Texas, this law allows for recovery if two parties have a legally binding contract and a third party induces one of the contracting parties to breach the agreement. Unlike a straight-forward breach of contract case, the plaintiff can recover exemplary damages.

I do not know if anyone has tried to use this theory of recovery in what would otherwise be an "alienation of affection" lawsuit. Instead of seeking damages for the loss of affection, a plaintiff might ask for damages resulting from the economic harm caused by the breakup. The property interest would not be in the spouse but in the agreement to contribute to each persons' financial success. I think this approach would fail as well for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which might be that the agreement was (putatively) based on each person loving the other.

Dan

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To what extent are Alienation of Affections laws moral? They seem to presuppose that the spouse who was involved in the extramarital affair is less responsible for her (or his) actions than an individual ought to be.
I disagree, simply in terms of representing the basic presumption. Specifically, the laws assert that any person has a duty to refrain from an action if that action will knowingly destroy a marriage. Under the ordinary reading of "affair", an affair exists only if there is extramarital sex (see Clinton v. Cigar et al for further definitions of "sex" and "is"). Sex is not required, nor need the defendant be romantically involved (thus, advising a friend to divorce his/her spouse is alienation of affection). Supressing details, I'm theoretically gettable under such law since I tried to convince a friend, in a certain unnamed state where I might have attended school and it is a recognized tort, that he or she really should seek a divorce.
Needless to say, charging a third party with alienation of affections does not legally imply that the cheating spouse is entirely innocent. Nevertheless, the underlying principles still seem suspect.
Then the obvious question is, innocent of what? The implication of such a law is that a person has an enforceable duty to love and act in a certain way with the spouse, until the obligation has been discharged by the government. I'll tell you straight up that there is no issue of "contract" involved here. I think that when a man realizes that he loves another woman and does not love his wife that he should, as a matter of personal integrity. be honest with his wife and end the marriage. But the law is not there to slap people for being weak of character.What I can make out from the concept of an "alienation of affection" law is that that that is possible one of the most immoral laws you could imagine. It asserts that you have the duty to destroy a value -- love -- for the sake of another, and for no rational reason at all.
The laws were based, in part, on the idea that a man had an actual property interest in his wife. To that extent, the laws are immoral.
Right, I hadn't thought of that angle. They are even worse than I had imagined.
The closest legitimate law would be "tortious interference with a contract".
'Mkay, except that a marriage isn't a contract AFAICT. It's at best a kind of partnership agreement. I just don't see how it has the level of specificity needed to count as a contract.
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