Mother in Laws

“Mom, you have to stop showing up unexpectedly at our house.”

“Mom, please stop telling my wife that her chicken casserole tastes like cardboard.”

“Bobby heard you telling your friends that he is lazy and will never make enough money to support me and our kids.”

“No, Mother. My husband and I do not need a marriage counselor and please do not book appointments for us.”

Have you ever heard any of the above statements or something similar? If so, you may be a meddling mother-in-law and this article is for you. Throughout the years, mother-in-laws have acquired the reputation of being overly involved in their married children’s lives, which can be somewhat attributed to Hollywood’s portrayal of such character traits in movies and TV shows. But what happens when that seemingly harmless behavior crosses a line and starts to take a devastating toll on a marriage?

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that still recognizes a group of lawsuits called “heartbalm actions”. This article is going to explore one of those heartbalm actions and what you need to know. In North Carolina, “alienation of affections” is a cause of action that an individual may bring against ANY third party who has caused a loss of love and affection in their marriage. Many people think of this lawsuit as the one you use to sue your spouse’s lover but it is much more versatile than that.

To be successful in this claim, one must prove 4 elements:

(1) an actual, valid marriage between the spouses,
(2) genuine love and affection existed between the spouses,
(3) that the genuine love and affection was alienated and destroyed, and
(4) that the Defendant’s wrongful and malicious acts caused the loss of love and alienation of affection.

Thus, this cause of action is not targeted solely at the alleged adulterous spouse’s lover but can be brought against any individual who alienated and destroyed the love and affection between married spouses. It is entirely possible for mother-in-laws (or father-in-laws) to find themselves being sued by their child’s spouse for allegedly destroying the marriage. The important takeaway is to understand and accept that your child’s marriage involves two people and neither of them are you.

Although annoying and intrusive behavior will most likely not cause you to find yourself involved in a lawsuit, it will cause avoidable conflict and hurt feelings. Therefore, keep those hurt feelings to a minimum by complimenting your daughter-in-law’s casserole that tastes like cardboard and always respect boundaries.

North Carolina Family Law Offices

Gastonia Office

174 S. South Street Suite 301
Gastonia, NC 28052
(704) 865-9011


Charlotte Office

400 S. Tyron St. Suite 950
Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 865-9011


Raleigh Office

434 Fayetteville Street Suite 2300
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 372-3670

Awards & Memberships

McIlveen Family Law Firm Awards