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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Desperate Housewives give mistresses legal headache

When I first read this article it did strike me more as the sort of thing you would see as a storyline on Desperate Housewives as much as a real-life report. A scorned wife successfully sues their husband’s mistress for £3.75 million. In the United States of course. But then, when you think of it, in this day and age, it is perhaps surprising that it caught my eye as being something unusual. Hardly anything surprises us these days. Children divorcing parents, football stars scoring with vice girls…

The reported story goes that Dr Lynn Arcara claimed in court that her love rival – and former friend – Susan Pecoraro had stolen her husband away from her while she was pregnant and was awarded $5.8million. She used a centuries-old 'alienation of affection' law to get the cash award, which was based on the amount of money she would have earned if she had remained married to her husband. (Classic quote from the lawyer in court: “She came down and helped my client paint her nursery and in the process she helped herself to my client's husband.”) North Carolina, where the case was heard, apparently deals with up to 200 cases a year under the obscure law and is one of seven US states to have it on their statute books.

Now in a country where you can sue anyone for everything with a fair chance of success, this actually strikes me as one of the more logical cases for litigious types. At very least, it gives the wronged wife two cracks of the whip (so to speak) in terms of getting payback. And for the mistress, it means a double whammy hanging over them: exposure as a harlot and financial ruin. Being exposed doesn’t seem to put many people off but I suspect in many cases the financial pitfalls (if they do indeed have something to lose) could be more of a deterrent.

I did a bit of digging and have to say I have not been able to find anything like this in the UK so there is no case law to go on. Not that I want to open the flood gates on this or be the man who introduced “suing the mistress” to the country, but I am intrigued. Has anyone else come across a case like this? I would be interested to hear about it.

In theory, it might be possible to sue as marriage is a contract and there are some laws around not encouraging people to break one – but I guess that is really designed with commercial contracts in mind and the UK courts might not stand for attempts by some legal whizz kid to argue that marriage is just such a contract, no matter how much money was involved. It would be an interesting case though, wouldn’t it?!

Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor

Comments and response - Desperate housewives give mistresses legal headache

Andrew, I mentioned your blog post to my wife this morning over a plate of home baked bread and Turkish mezes. She remarked that she had read recently that a woman was suing a mistress because her husband had committed suicide as a result of the guilt he experienced following a liaison. Neither of use know the outcome of the case or even if it has been heard. The implication of the Turkish case, and also the ones you cite, is that men have no free will. Indeed the a like Barbie’s rather sad and easily tempted boyfriend Ken, (have you seen how he behaves in Toy Story 3?), vain but of no real substance. Stephen ......

By Stephen Bray on Wednesday September 15, 2010

I believe the old adage still is:‘It takes two to tango’.  Russ. (now where did I put that link to the russian au-pair website…

By Russell Henley on Wednesday September 15, 2010

In these days when marriage is as much a commercial/financial contract (two people working and buying property etc) There should be some redress when a predatory woman/man tries to muscle in on a relationship. It is utterly shameful the way some people behave in ways to disrupt and steal a partner for their own gain. There are many cases where this could be seen as a crime and deserve proper compensation. I am particularly thinking of incidents a few years back in Buckinghamshire when a team of Russian girls came here as au pair with the sole purpose of ousting the wife from each of their families and setting up home and eventually marrying the husband. All families were somewhat well heeled and picked purposely. Out of the six au pairs four succeeded in their aims. The other two moved on to new pastures and no doubt succeeded there. With many affairs the married partner is not always aware of the predatory and connived plan of the usurper. Many women want a ready made life for a short while before they move on to richer pastures. The innocent victims of these ravenous ‘foxes’ should be compensated. These are not the situations whereby a spouse has a secret lover somewhere away from home…but where a person wheedles their way into the home and causes the offended spouse to quite often leave in despair. It happens a lot more often than people realise.

By Fay Olinsky on Wednesday September 15, 2010

Andrew,with all the wannabes with no morals prancing around…many men are sorely tempted. What most men and some women need to realise is that a great deal of that temptation is designed to strip them of their wherewithal and give the siren a meal ticket for life. A casual affair can be a millstone for life…so be careful!  Where are all the strong women who fight for their husbands with all the weapons of these lazy man grabbers…you don’t have to do it for long…just until he gets it out of his system and realises what a great life he really has (that goes for vice-versa situations too)

I had a situation like this happen to me…In the end in utter frustration and madness I aimed my car at the bitch and scared her witless. Her father came to my house and I explained why I had done it…he knew what she had been up to and thoroughly approved…unfortunately she then went and wrecked my brother-in-laws family and eventually married him leaving my sister-in-law and two children without their home and their father. She left after 3 years with a baby and full support and married the next door neighbour who was far wealthier. She now lives the high life in New York. My sister-in-law struggles to make ends meet. My brother-in-law found it necessary to marry an elderly psychiatric patient with mega dosh so he can afford the upkeep of his mistakes.

I don’t encourage illegal and dangerous actions but sometimes some people drive others to commit them. If someone disrupts a persons life, threatens their well being and intends to steal their partner they should pay dearly for it, not be rewarded by a ready made home, friends and family. They are like cuckoos pushing eggs out off a nest to lay their own huge greedy one.

I have been married happily now for 42 years and do not regret fighting and not giving up because some greedy smartarse teenager thought she could take my life and my husband from me. My husband agrees with me…now

 By Fay Olinsky on Wednesday September 15, 2010

Give me the label of “harlot” anytime. I don’t know that such a label is as damaging as it once would have been, anyway. In fact, it could make you famous (see the Tiger Woods debacle). And, while the mistress is culpable, what about the husband who couldn’t resist temptation? I hope she got a chunk of change from him, too. If you’re going to go after one, you should go after both. ...

By Mary Kalebel on Friday September 17, 2010

Wish I lived in the states - my husband has just confessed to having six (six!!) affairs in the four years we were married…I could retire on that…....

By Riana on Thursday September 30, 2010


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