I've always had the impression that the law is there to be fair and protect a disadvantaged party.

Let's say a partner in a marriage falls in love with someone else and divorces their current spouse. They and their new partner get the house, all children, and child support payments.

The poor ex loses everything: spouse, children, house, and now has to pay child support (which can be 50% of their income) to their ex.

In what world is this fair? Can someone explain to me why "no-fault" divorce is the de-facto law? why isn't infidelity considered a tort during divorce settlements?

  • 4
    I’m voting to close this question because it is asking about the motivation behind the law being what it is rather than about what the law happens to be. This is off topic. This site's purpose is to to allow people to ask question to learn what the law is. The process of making laws is largely political. Maybe this question can be asked on politics.SE (beware that site is in beta) or on history.SE. Alternatively, you can rephrase the question to ask which laws shape the current legal regime.
    – grovkin
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 2:10
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    @grovkin I disagree with your rollback of Azor Ahai's edit. It removes an edit that was approved by a moderator and adds back unnecessarily sexist language. If you believe that there were important details removed, please edit them in rather than rolling the edit back in its entirety.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 3:11
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    I agree with Ryan M, and since this has turned into a rollback war: No more rollbacks on this question! Violators will earn a suspension.
    – feetwet
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 14:59
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Apparently "alienation of affection" is still a tort in Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

The assumption originally behind alienation of affection this is that one spouse (most usually the wife) belongs to the other and a third party stole them from the other (husband). This is now archaic, sexist, thinking that attributes no free-will agency to the spouse and treats her as property.

Most states have no-fault divorce because the modern view is that if anyone decides they do not want not be married the state does not have an interest in the reasons.

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    The states you've listed are apparently those where you can (independently of divorce proceedings) sue someone who "stole your spouse", but one can still pursue an at-fault divorce in many other states. It's not clear to me in which states adultery can serve as grounds for an at-fault divorce, though; nor is it clear whether it will affect settlements. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 15:54
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    Archaic, probably, but is it actually/inherently sexist? Is the law(s, generally) written in a way that only a husband can use against his wife? (certainly plenty of people, or at least songwriters, feel the "stealing" happens in the other direction as well, as well that both spouses are the sole rightful owners of their partner's romantic affections). I agree that when written, it was probably intended that way, but the same can probably be said of, say, domestic violence laws as well.
    – sharur
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 21:14
  • Is a wife a chattel? Equality, Property, and Marriage. Most American treated married women according to the concept of coverture, a concept inherited from English common law. Under the doctrine of coverture, a woman was legally considered the chattel of her husband, his possession. from chnm.gmu.edu/courses/omalley/120f02/america/marriage Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 22:49
  • I don't think "stealing" of a partner is a reference to property in the modern English. It's an idiom. Partners often refer to each other as theirs. To "steal" a partner means to woo away.
    – grovkin
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 23:26

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