Jameika Williams Mangum

*“American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino is caught in the middle of a dispute involving her ex-boyfriend Antuan Cook and his wife Pamela Cook. Allegedly, Mrs. Cook accuses Barrino of breaking up her marriage and “stealing” her husband. What’s a jilted spouse to do? Can you sue your husband’s mistress?

Illinois is one of several states that still has alienation of affections within its statutes.  However, the statute limits the amount of damages a prevailing party may receive. New York was one of the first states to recognize alienation of affections. Most states have abolished alienation of affections, including New York.  Alienation of affections statutes developed during a time when women were viewed as property, and husbands could sue men accused of “stealing” their wives. Although people are not considered as property, some states still allow the spouse to recover for alienation of affections.

Alienation of affections may be difficult to prove, and many defenses may be raised in court. Courts may examine whether the marriage was still intact at the time the new relationship began. For example, if the parties were sleeping in separate bedrooms of the marital home when the new relationship started, it may be difficult to show love and affection of the alienated spouse for the plaintiff. Some courts may require that the plaintiff prove actual damages and willful intent.

Interestingly, North Carolina still recognizes alienation of affections, and is the state with the pending child custody action involving Paula Cook and Antuan Cook. This year, in North Carolina, Cynthia Shackelford sued her husband’s mistress Anne Lundquist for alienation of affections, and a jury awarded Ms. Shackelford…9 million dollars! Shackelford was married to her spouse for 32 years. Lundquist did not appear for the trial. Lundquist who  lives in New York, plans to file an appeal.

Jameika Williams Mangum is an Attorney at the Mangum Law Firm, LLC in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The Mangum Law Firm, LLC is a general practice firm with a focus on Criminal, Civil, and Family Law. For more information, please visit www.themangumlawfirm.com . If you have any questions, please e-mail [email protected] . Your question may be featured in a future Mangum Legal Minute.

Note: The Mangum Legal Minute is not legal advice. It is for informational, educational, and/or entertainment purposes only.