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Illinois Considers Eliminating Heart Balm Torts

Posted on in Divorce

heart balm torts, cheating Illinois spouse, Illinois Family Law AttorneyFor most people, an extreme response to discovering a spouse's infidelity is divorce. However, there is another legal response available to jilted Illinois spouses. Illinois is one of the few states left in the country that recognizes a pair of torts known as heart balm torts. These torts allow a spouse to sue the person that his or her husband or wife cheated with, and recover money damages.

However, Illinois legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate people's rights to bring those actions, and therefore align Illinois law with most other states.

The Heart Balm Torts

Illinois law currently recognizes two separate heart balm torts for cases where one spouse is cheating on the other. Importantly, both of these lawsuits are brought against the third-party, not the spouse who cheated.

The first possible cause of action is alienation of affection. In this type of lawsuit, the spouse sues the third-party for seducing his or her husband or wife away. However, the mere fact that the husband and wife grew apart, and one of them started cheating, is not enough to win a lawsuit. Instead, the plaintiff must prove overt conduct on the part of the third-party which caused the spouses' relationship to degrade.

The second potential heart balm tort is criminal conversation. Despite its name, the lawsuit is not related to either a criminal offense or a mere conversation. Instead, the lawsuit arises simply from sexual intercourse between a plaintiff's spouse and the third-party. In fact, the plaintiff-spouse can even succeed on this case if the two spouses were living apart at the time the intercourse occurred.

Changes to the Heart Balm Law

Given the fact that these torts seem so firmly rooted in the past, the Illinois legislature is currently considering abolishing them. Yet even if the current legislature does not choose to align Illinois law with the rest of the country, past legislatures have already made an important change to these torts.

The legislature recognized that these sorts of lawsuits have a serious potential for abuse, and could result in unfair or outsized verdicts against defendants. Consequently, Illinois has a statute placing limits on the types of damages available to plaintiffs in these lawsuits. Unlike most lawsuits which allow for factors like emotional damages or extra damages to punish defendants, Illinois has limited the damages available for these actions to actual economic harm suffered by the plaintiff-spouse.

Even if you do not think a heart balm lawsuit is the right choice for you, Illinois law provides a variety of options for ending a marriage. If you are considering divorce and want to learn more about these options, please contact a skilled Illinois family law attorney today in McHenry County.

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