A divorced man in Pitt County, North Carolina, won $750,000 after he sued the man he claimed broke up his marriage.
When Kevin Howard’s wife of 12 years approached him and suggested they separate, he was devastated.
She had originally told me that she wanted a divorce because I work too much, wasn’t around to be there and I worked too much. I talked about that as part of my mistake in the situation, but it was like a punch in the gut because I thought I had this trust for 12 years and love. It was the hardest thing of ever had to face, it was like someone calling you and telling you that a family member had tragically died.
However, under the alienation of affection laws in North Carolina, cheating on a married person that ends up in divorce is considered illegal.
The laws, more commonly known as the “homewrecker” or “heartbalm” laws, are also held as sacred in Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah.
North Carolina’s alienation of affection laws date back to the 1800s and follow English law from 1745 when wives were considered their husband’s property.
Howard’s attorney, Cindy Mills, told reporters that the defendant laughed when the case was brought before the court:
I said, ‘Do you find something funny about this process?’ That’s very dangerous perception to have because the same person who laughed in that deposition, that defendant now has a $750,000 judgment against them, so I don’t think he’s laughing now.
Howard said that the man who seduced his wife “came to my house and ate dinner with us,” adding that they also talked about their personal lives.
“I believe in the sanctity of marriage,” he noted. “Other families should see what the consequences are to not only breaking the vow to whatever religion you subscribe to, but also your legal responsibilities.”
In August, a Pitt County Superior judge ordered the defendant, Greg Jernigan, to pay Howard $750,000 in damages.