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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Heartbalm Torts Not for Kids

Depending on the state, there are several heartbalm torts that allow the brokenhearted to recover for their romantic troubles.  Lovers--whether married or not--can sue in tort each other or a third party who caused a romance to go sour. 

In a case of first impression in Mississippi, the minor children of a marriage invoked the tort of alienation of affection against their mother’s neck doctor, who engaged in an extra-marital affair with her that led to her divorce.  Earlier this month, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided that children do not have a colorable interest in the alienation of one parent’s affections toward the other.  But maybe they do, in light of the endless studies showing that two-parent households are better for children than one-parent households?  Should there be a tort for ruining a child's happy household?

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on November 25, 2014 at 02:00 PM | Permalink


Hi--Surprisingly, the court didn't choose to go that far, instead just limiting the tort to the marriage contract between two people. But now that you mention it, alienation of affection has in fact been used to protect a parent-child relationship from 3rd party interference in other states. In Washington, for example, a jury awarded over $100k in damages to parents whose 16-year-old daughter never spoke to them again after the juvenile law system placed her in foster care. (Here's a newspaper article on that case: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19791017&id=0ABWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=E-IDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1342,4640304). More recently, there has been a push to use alienation of affections against a divorcing parent who tries to turn the kids against the other parent.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 28, 2014 8:05:33 PM

Thanks for this, Margaret. It seems completely wrong for the court to propose as the fact of the matter that children do not have such an "interest" or that it's very often bad for kids when their parents split up. I assume (not having looked at the case yet!) that the court ends up saying something like "whatever interest a kid has in his or her parents' marriage not breaking up, it's not an interest that we are willing to recognize in our tort law, because it would interfere with the private decisions of the adults in question"?

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Nov 28, 2014 8:47:27 AM

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