Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The New Jersey Law Journal (via law.com) reports on a suit filed last week in the Law Division by a non-custodial parent against the child's mother (and custodial parent) for "alienation of affection." Following a 2001 separation, the suit alleges that the children's relationship with their father was "damaged," "that he no longer has the relationship with his children he had previously." The suit is based on negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress theories, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
New Jersey courts abolished alienation of affection as a cause of action between spouses on June 27, 1935, and other states have also abolished the action.
However, at least one court seems to have allowed a claim like Segal's to go forward. In Raftery v. Scott, 756 F.2d 335 (4th Cir., 1985), a federal appeals court applying Virginia law affirmed an award of $40,000 in compensatory and $10,000 in punitive damages in an emotional distress suit by a New York man who alleged it took a year to find his child after his former wife absconded to Virginia while the divorce decree was pending. By the time he was able to see his child, the ex-wife had allegedly turned the child against him, he alleged.
But a Wisconsin court went the other way in 1987, refusing, in Gleiss v. Newman, 415 N.W.2d 845 (Wis. Ct. App. 1987), to allow a noncustodial parent to sue the custodial parent and his new wife for emotional distress and alienation of affection.