US husband sues wife's lover for breaking up marriage - and wins

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Mr Kevin Howard's life fell apart when his wife of 12 years divorced him. He later discovered that she had been cheating on him with a co-worker.

But he got the last laugh when a North Carolina judge agreed that the other man was to blame for the marriage's failure, and awarded Mr Howard US$750,000 (S$1.03 million), US media reported on Thursday (Oct 3).

"She had originally told me that she wanted a divorce because I work too much, wasn't around to be there," Mr Howard told local television station WITN.

But a private detective discovered his wife had been having an affair with a work colleague, whom he had met before, CNN reported.

"He came to my house and ate dinner with us. We shared stories, we talked about personal lives," Mr Howard said.

And so he turned to the courts, filing a lawsuit before a judge in Greenville under an "alienation of affection" law dating from the 1800s, an era when wives were considered their husband's property.

The law, which is still in effect in only five other US states - Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah - allows one member of a couple to sue another person whom they believe to be the cause of the breakup of their marriage due to "wrongful or malicious acts", according to North Carolina's Vavonese Law Firm.

"I filed the case because I feel that it's very important that people understand that the sanctity of marriage is important, especially in this day and age when people question everyone's morals, people questions everyone's liability," Mr Howard told WITN.

His lawyer, Ms Cindy Mills, tries at least one such case in court every year. In 2010, one of her clients was awarded US$5.9 million in a similar situation.

That same year, a North Carolina court awarded US$9 million to a woman who accused her husband's lover of breaking up their 33-year marriage.

According to Vavonese, more than 200 suits based on "alienation of affection" are filed every year in North Carolina.

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