As the Ashley Madison hacking scandal remains front page news in Illinois and throughout the United States, Illinois residents should know (and some may be breathing a sigh of relief) that the legislature just passed a law eliminating so-called “heart balm actions”. These are lawsuits people file when their proverbial hearts have been broken (when their spouses have been unfaithful); alleged torts for which the brokenhearted party seeks monetary damages. There are three such causes of action in Illinois, none of which will be allowed as of January 1, 2016.
Heart balm actions are only available in nine states across the country, and as of January 1, 2016, this number will decrease to eight. Bringing a heart balm action in Illinois is already rare, and winning even more so. There are currently three so-called heart balm actions that can be brought in Illinois: the breach of promise to marry, alienation of affection, and adultery (referred to as criminal conversation by the legislature). Two of the three (alienation and criminal conversation) are brought against a third party. With the elimination of these actions, there is no longer any risk of financial or legal penalty for interfering in the relationship or marriage of another.
The most common of the heart balm actions is alienation of affection, and any victims who learned of spousal infidelity as a result of the Ashley Madison hack should take note of this law change. In a lawsuit for alienation of affection, a lawsuit is brought against a third party who you believe is responsible for the failure of or interference with your marriage. To prevail in an alienation of affection claim, you must prove that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct; that you therefore lost the affection of your spouse; and that the defendant’s action was the proximate cause of your loss. There are already significant restrictions on this type of lawsuit under Illinois law, and any recovery is limited to actual, provable damages. However, as of January 1, 2016, actions for alienation of affections, along with breach of promise to marry and adultery, will be abolished entirely.
Heart balm laws are holdovers from older times, and Illinois now joins the vast majority of states in abolishing them. There are other methods of recourse when your marriage is ending or in trouble, and if you would like to explore your options, you need an excellent and skilled family law attorney. If you are located in the Chicago metro area, the Lake Forest area, or in Lyle and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.
There are many factors to consider when contemplating divorce, and a pre-divorce planning session can help you begin to plan for a divorce. Please contact the professionals at the Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group by calling (312) 585-6604 or clicking here to schedule a consultation.
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