Many marriages end in divorce as a result of infidelity by one spouse. Discovering that a spouse is committing adultery has a devastating emotional and physical impact on the non-cheating spouse. Unlike many other states, Illinois law grants relief to the suffering spouse of an adulterous marriage by allowing lawsuits to be filed for "alienation of affection." Alienation of affection laws have been abolished in almost all states and were originally enacted during the era of this country when women and wives were deemed to be the "property" of the husband. As a result, the law allowed a husband to recover for his property after it had been taken away. In Illinois, alienation of affection suits may be filed against the third-party individual who was involved with the infidelity. Additionally, such suits may also be brought against other third-parties such as in-laws and friends who may have enticed or caused the break-up of the marriage. To prevail on an alienation of affection claim, the suffering-spouse plaintiff must prove the following elements: (1) that prior to the involvement with the third-party lover, the cheating spouse continued to have love and affection for the suffering spouse; (2) that were actual damages, in other words, actual financial loss as a result of the infidelity; (3) and there were overt acts, conduct and/or enticement on the part of the 3rd party causing which have caused the love and affection from the cheating spouse to end towards the suffering spouse. In other words, the suffering-spouse plaintiff will need to prove that the 3rd party lover "stole" the cheating spouse's affections away from the suffering spouse and caused a break down in the marriage. Meeting all of the necessary elements may prove to be difficult. However, upon prevailing on an alienation of affections lawsuit, the suffering spouse will be awarded "actual damages" or out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the marriage breaking down and will not be compensated for any emotional distress or pain and suffering. Currently, alienation of affection lawsuits are not all that common but remain in existence to allow a form of recourse to a suffering spouse.
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