What is the law of criminal conversation?
Despite the name, criminal conversation is a civil cause of action related to adultery. “Conversation” is an old English euphemism for sexual intercourse. Like alienation of affection, criminal conversation is a claim against the third party who had sexual intercourse with the spouse of another before any separation of the spouses.
What’s the difference between alienation of affection and criminal conversation?
Suppose a plaintiff does not have direct evidence of sexual intercourse. In that case, criminal conversation can still be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that the plaintiff’s spouse and the third party had the opportunity and the inclination to engage in sexual intercourse.
Criminal conversation is often described as a strict liability action in that a claim may succeed even if the third party was unaware of a marriage. Unlike alienation of affection, a plaintiff is not required to prove love and affection in the marriage or any negative consequence to the marriage.
Is adultery a crime in North Carolina?
Yes, adultery is a crime in North Carolina (albeit rarely prosecuted). There is a three-year statute of limitations for an action for criminal conversation.