Alienation of Affection

Parents meddling with their child’s married life may be sued for damages

image_printPrint this!
Alienation of Affection
Image from Modified for artistic purposes.

A concubine or a paramour, often called a homewrecker, may be sued for damages for taking away a husband or a wife away from their spouse and their children. This is other than their respective criminal liability, if any, together with the erring spouse.

The basis for the damage suit is found in Article 26 of the Civil Code:

Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief: (1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence: (2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another; (3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends; (4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

A suit based on Article 26 (3) is called an Alienation of Affection suit.

In our society, we often joke about a married person’s relationship with his or her in-laws. Often we hear stories about mother-in-laws making married life unbearable for husbands and wives due to their constant interference like nagging about their daughter-in-law’s cooking or overall housekeeping or nagging about their son-in-law’s inability to keep a stable job, etc. So the question now is, if the person meddling in the family life of a person is a parent, may an Alienation of Affection suit be filed against the parent if his or her meddling results in the destruction of the family life of his or her child?

The Supreme Court says YES in Tenchavez vs. EscaƱo. In this case, the Supreme Court said: A parent is liable for alienation of affections resulting from his own malicious conduct, as where he wrongfully entices his son or daughter to leave his or her spouse, but he is not liable unless he acts maliciously, without justification and from unworthy motives. He is not liable where he acts and advises his child in good faith with respect to his child’s marital relations in the interest of his child as he sees it, the marriage of his child not terminating his right and liberty to interest himself in, and be extremely solicitous for, his child’s welfare and happiness, even where his conduct and advice suggest or result in the separation of the spouses or the obtaining of a divorce or annulment, or where he acts under mistake or misinformation, or where his advice or interference are indiscreet or unfortunate, although it has been held that the parent is liable for consequences resulting from recklessness. He may in good faith take his child into his home and afford him or her protection and support, so long as he has not maliciously enticed his child away, or does not maliciously entice or cause him or her to stay away, from his or her spouse. This rule has more frequently been applied in the case of advice given to a married daughter, but it is equally applicable in the case of advice given to a son.

Another key point here is that not every interference by a parent is an actionable wrong. Balance is to be made between a parent’s right to advance the welfare of his or her child and the right of their child’s spouse to a healthy and harmonious family life. This is also one of the rare cases where freedom of expression and speech are sustained over private matters. Often we apply these freedoms as against government censorship but here we can see that they may also find application in the affairs between private individuals and courts may step in to balance these rights.


image_printPrint this!

Leave a Reply