Criminal Conversation

By Wes Cowell, updated 6 June 2015


Criminal Conversation  suits are alive and well in Illinois . . . but not for long.  A new law abolishes  claims for cases where the tortious acts occur after 1/1/2016.  The statute of limitations is two years.  If your spouse has an affair before midnight on 31 December 2015, you'll have until 31 December 2017 to file your case.  After that, there will be no more criminal conversation  cases in Illinois.  Need advice?  Callleave your info, or schedule a consult.


“Criminal conversation” is a lawsuit brought by a spouse for money damages from the other spouse's lover for a "breach of marital fidelity."  The claim used to be available only to husbands but, thanks to our more enlightened view of the rights of women, today the law may be invoked by husbands and wives alike.   When the affections of an adulterer/adultress are not alienated, and the couple remains married, the injured spouse need not forget.  A cause of action known as “criminal conversation” allows a loyal spouse who has suffered through an affair to sue the interloper even if the marriage stays intact; that is, even if the affections are not alienated.


With criminal conversation cases, there need not be a divorce -- the couple may stayed married.  The lover may be  liable to the husband (or wife), however, for interfering with the husband’s (or wife's) “property.”   The statute of limitations, as with most other torts, is two years.  One problem for plaintiffs is that criminal conversation suits do not enjoy the benefit of the "discovery rule;" that is, the statute of limitations is not tolled during the period while the plaintiff is unable to discover, regardless of his diligence, that he has been injured until after the limitations period has passed and suit is forever barred.  In re:  Marriage of Wanic, 445 N.E.2d 1272, 112 Ill.App.3d 740, 68 Ill.Dec. 419 (1st Dist., 1983).


Seduction:  The offense of seduction exists where a “chaste woman” (a virgin) is fraudulently lured into a sexual relationship; that is, on a promise of marriage.  The action is ancient and, originally, standing to bring such a lawsuit rested not with the victimized woman, but with her father.  The logic was that the woman was barred from bringing suit as she had consented to the sexual relationship – but her father could bring a lawsuit for the violation of his property as children were viewed in the law as servants to their parents.  Damages were found in the diminshed value of the work the daughter could produce when she became pregnant.  This law is still on the books in the 21st century.  Today, women may sue for themselves but the suit sounds more in the nature of a personal injury claim rather than a property damage claim.



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