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Epperson Law Group Files Alienation of Affection Claim Against NeNe Leakes

Epperson Law Group Files Alienation of Affection Claim Against NeNe LeakesEpperson Law Group recently filed civil claims on behalf of Malomine Tehmeh-Sioh, the wife of Nyonsiela Sioh, against celebrity NeNe Leakes. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Leakes wrongfully interfered with Ms. Tehmeh-Sioh’s marriage by engaging in an adulterous affair with Mr. Sioh, which ultimately resulted in the destruction of the marriage. The claims are recognized in North Carolina and may be the basis for civil damages against the offending party.

According to TMZ, Ms. Leakes (who was an original cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta Bravo TV series from 2008 – 2020) also posted numerous pictures of her relationship with Mr. Sioh on social media, thereby humiliating Mrs. Sioh and causing her mental anguish. Ms. Leakes recently filed her own claim against Bravo, NBCUniversal, Executive Producer Andy Cohen and production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original for allowing toxic workplace conditions to exist. According to EURweb, the romance between Ms. Leakes and Mr. Sioh began in 2021, three months after Gregg Leakes (Ms. Leakes’ late spouse) died from colon cancer.

North Carolina’s alienation of affection law

North Carolina is one of seven states allowing spouses to file a claim for alienation of affection against the partner of the claimant’s spouse. North Carolina also permits spouses (and ex-spouses) the right to file a related claim for criminal conversation. The statute provides that:

  • The statute of limitations for filing an alienation of affection or criminal conversation claim must be filed within three years from the “last act of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.”
  • No claim can be filed if the conduct occurs “after the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s spouse physically separate with the intent of either the plaintiff or plaintiff’s spouse that the physical separation remain permanent.”
  • The claims may only be filed against natural persons.

The main requirements of an alienation of affection cause of action are:

  • The plaintiff was married, and that marriage was characterized by love and affection.
  • The love and affection ended as a result of another person’s willful actions.

This is one of the many reasons why, when asked, we advise clients that they should NOT date other persons until they are separated. If you begin dating someone new before you have legally separated, your new beau can be hit with an alienation of affection claim. For the same reasons, we advise clients not to engage in a romantic relationship with someone to whom they are no married.

How do you prove alienation of affection claims?

Alienation of affection suggests that a third person caused one married partner to fall out of love with the other married partner. While adultery could lead to the alienation of affection, this is not always the case, as long as the third person’s actions were a reason the marriage ended.

Some factors important to proving alienation of affection claims include:

  • That the relationship between the other spouse/ex-spouse and the mistress/paramour began before the marriage and ended and before the separation period started. One must show that the relationship is what caused the marriage to end.
  • That the mistress/paramour must intend to destroy your marriage. It’s not enough to argue that the mistress/paramour had relations with your ex-spouse.
  • That you did not have an “open marriage.” A defendant may be able to argue there was no alienation of affection if both spouses agreed to an open marriage where they could each have physical relationships with other people.

Other factors affecting a claim:

  • An alienation of affection claim may be filed against defendants who do not live in North Carolina, although some connection to North Carolina must be established, such as engaging in the relationship within the state.
  • Even making phone calls and sending emails may be considered acts causing an alienation of affection.
  • Alienation of affection does not require intercourse or even sexual activity. Sexual intercourse does indicate that the defendant’s acts were intentional and malicious.
  • The defendant does not have to be the person who initiated the extra-marital affair. It can be the spouse/ex-spouse of the plaintiff.
  • For now, the court cases indicate that an alienation of affection claim does not violate the free speech provisions or due process provisions of the US Constitution.

What kind of compensation can you seek for alienation of affection in North Carolina?

There’s no precise formula for determining how much the claim is worth. Different factfinders may value the claim differently. Typically, monetary damages such as compensatory and punitive damages are sought.

There is a difference between an alienation of affection award and an alimony award. In an alienation of affection claim, a third-party (the non-spouse) pays the damage award. In an alimony claim, the spouse pays.

What are the defenses to alienation of affection in North Carolina?

As we discussed, if the spouses had an open marriage, then the victimized spouse can’t claim his/her affections were alienated. Other defenses to the definition of alienation of affection include:

  • The spouse’s marriage lacked love and affection.
  • The defendant did not know the spouses were married.
  • The claim was not filed within the statute of limitations period.
  • The plaintiff consented to the relationship.

Criminal conversation and alienation of affection

“Criminal conversation,” which is a civil tort allowing you to sue when your spouse commits adultery, is a double misnomer. First, the offense is a civil wrong, not a criminal one. Second, the claimant needs to show proof of intercourse. Circumstantial proof of sexual intercourse is acceptable; video or recordings are not a requirement to proving the claim. For example, if the mistress delivers a baby and a DNA/paternity test shows that the child’s father is the claimant’s spouse, that may be proof of sexual intercourse.

Unlike an alienation of affection case, a defendant in a criminal conversation claim cannot raise the defense that they did know of the marriage, that the marriage was without love, or that the plaintiff consented to the sexual intercourse.

At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, our family law attorneys have the experience and resources you want on your side in any family law case. We understand the unique challenges involved with alienation of affection and criminal conversation complaints. Our lawyers understand what damages you can claim if a third party alienates your affection or engages in criminal conversation. To schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Charlotte, Boone, Concord, or Weddington, call us at 704-321-0031 or use our contact page to schedule a consultation.