Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sue to Protect Your Marriage

If marriage is important enough, this is another tool people might well use. Sue to Protect Your Marriage: "

And who knows? It might get some people to value the importance of tort reform.

Roland C. Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, published an essay in the Washington Post online, July 8, and in print, July 10, decrying the fact that women who have had affairs with male public figures, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, Tiger Woods and Eliot Spitzer, have become celebrities. He says these women knew that these men were married. They should not be 'media darlings,' but should be shunned as homewreckers. He says wives should fight back, just like Candy Lightner did 30 years ago when she started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after her teen-aged daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

One way women could fight back is by suing the women who have interfered with their marriage. Our states used to provide a legal remedy in such a situation. Spouses aggrieved by an intruder into their marriage had the right to sue the intruder for 'criminal conversation' (requiring adultery) or 'alienation of affections' (not requiring adultery). Over the past few decades the legislatures or supreme courts of about 40 of our states have abolished these rights. Why did they do so?

Many legislators, judges, and members of the public think that married people are free -- free to roam, free to play the field. No promise, no vow, no commitment they voluntarily made should be so strong that they cannot unilaterally withdraw. As for the third parties to a marriage, they are free to hit on a married person. Our laws won't let them stalk married folks or harass them, but they can hit on them. They do not need to respect any marital bond.

Have our legislators and judges actually said these things? They didn't need to. Their actions said it.


There are additional situations in which married persons could use lawsuits. A married person should be able to sue individuals who interfered with a marriage to gain commercial advantage. They should be allowed to sue prostitutes and their pimps, mistresses and gigolos, pornography websites, and dating websites that do not screen out married persons. The wife of former Governor Eliot Spitzer should be entitled to sue his prostitutes and their pimps to recover the more than $80,000 he reportedly paid them.

A husband should be able to sue a man, infected with a sexually transmitted disease, who has engaged, or has attempted to engage, in intercourse with his wife. Moreover, a wife should be able to hold persons liable for interfering with marital relations for selling drugs to her husband, or for feeding his gambling addiction if the drugs and gambling deprived her of his care, comfort, society, or consortium. (Precedents for such legislation include the Hugh O'Connor Memorial Laws, named after the son of actor Carroll O'Connor, and adopted by several states since the late 1990s. The laws allow family members to sue those who provided drugs to their loved ones.)

If we want a tool to protect individual marriages, and all marriages, weak and strong, then we can develop modern legislation on the interference of marital relations based on the historical causes of action known as 'criminal conversation' and 'alienation of affections' and on the ideas presented here.

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