Illinois Repeals Heart Balm Acts for Alienation of Affection and More
A broken heart used to be able to lead to a lawsuit, but on January 1, 2016, a new law went into effect, which abolishes all of Illinois’ “heart balm” acts. These statutes were designed to ease the broken heart of the plaintiff after a rocky romantic entanglement, and allowed civil suits alleging alientation of affection, breach of promise to marry, and criminal conversion (adultery) under common law.
These laws have been on the books since 1947, but their abolition will take these disputes out of the courtroom and eliminate potential expensive and contentious lawsuits. Also, the repeal recognizes a change in society. As stated in IL HB1452 itself, “society has also realized that women and men should have equal rights under the law. Heart balm actions are rooted in the now-discredited notion that men and women are unequal.”
The number of lawsuits brought with these “heart balm” acts were minimal, and allowed limited damages. Illinois was one of nine states in the U.S. to have acts like these. Now the statutes can only be found in Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.
“Alientation of affection” was the most common heart balm act. Victims of spousal infidelity could bring a lawsuit against the third party who interfered in the marriage. The plaintiff would have to prove that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct and that it was the reason for the loss of affection in the marriage.
Another cause of action, “breach of promise to marry”, was allowed when a person broke an engagement of marriage. The final “heart balm act” related to “criminal conversion”, which is a legal term for adultery. Just as in “alientation of affection”, the suit could be brought against the third party who interefered with the marriage.
While the “heart balm” acts are gone, the need for legal advice in matters of the heart is still prevalent. If you need consultation about dissolving a marital relationship, the experienced professionals at Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD can walk you through divorce in Illinois. Please call us at 847.944.9400 or request a free case evaluation below.