Missouri Alienation of Affection Laws

By Jennifer Leighton

The Missouri laws for alienation of affection are very clear cut: Alienation of affection is not a basis for separation or divorce in the state of Missouri. Alienation of affection, defined by the West's Encyclopedia of American Law as "The removal of love, companionship, or aid of an individual's spouse", was abolished as a basis for legal action in Helsel v. Noellsch on June 17, 2003.

Alienation Of Affection Definition

To file an alienation of affection claim in Missouri prior to 2003, proof was required in three areas. Proof must have been provided that the defendant had engaged in "wrongful conduct", that the plaintiff had been deprived of the affections or company of their spouse, and that there was at minimum a "casual connection" between the behavior of the defendant and the losses of the plaintiff.

Abolishment Of Alienation of Affection

The Missouri Supreme Court abolished the alienation of affection law in the 2003 Missouri Supreme Court case Helsel v. Noellsch, joining the majority of U.S. states in doing so. In the judgment handed down by Judge Richard B. Teitelman, the alienation of affection law was abolished, stating "Because alienation of affection is premised upon antiquated concepts, faulty assumptions, and is inconsistent with precedent, the tort is abolished in Missouri." As of 2010, only seven U.S. states permit alienation of affection lawsuits: Mississippi, Illinois, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

Legal Basis For Divorce

While alienation of affection is no longer a legal basis for marriage dissolution in Missouri, there is another legal basis for divorce that covers a far wider range of situations. Missouri is a "no fault" divorce state, meaning that in order to dissolve a marriage only one party needs to testify that the marriage has been irretrievably broken and that there is no chance it can be repaired. The other spouse in the divorce does not have to agree to the divorce, though it is possible to argue the divorce if desired.