In an earlier time, there were several civil causes of action that a state might have recognized to protect broken hearts, failed marriages, and damaged reputations. “Breach of promise to marry,” for example, was a cause of action that a woman might bring against a fiancé who jilted her, often after convincing her to engage in premarital sex that might or might not have led to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. “Criminal conversation” was a euphemism for adultery and gave the cheated-on spouse a cause of action against the paramour. “Alienation of affections” was a cause of action that could be adapted to a wider variety of situations. The core was the alienation of one spouse’s affections for the other (there had to be genuine love and affection in the first place), but the cause could be a paramour, a friend, or even an overbearing mother or father-in-law. When successful, these suits resulted in an award of damages—the paramour or jilter had to literally pay for the harm he or she caused.
Joanna L. Grossman,
Collateral Damage: Children Cannot Sue the Paramour Who Broke Up Their Parents’ Marriage VERDICT
Available at: http://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/faculty_scholarship/991