What may seem like a simple decision to file for divorce because one spouse no longer loves the other could turn into a financial mess, at least for an adulterous spouse's new fling. In seven states, heart balm torts exist and are sometimes enforced by the courts during divorce. A heart balm tort is a private wrong with a remedy provided for by law.
A private wrong, such as adultery, could cost the person -- the third party in the equation -- a lot of money. In one case, a jury awarded a wife $10,002 to be paid by her husband's girlfriend. Even though the parties separated in 2009 and the girlfriend denied the affair, the court still awarded the amount in a 2010 lawsuit. The amount included $1 for malicious conduct, $1 for adultery, otherwise known as criminal conversion, $5,000 for punitive damages on the adultery charge and $5,000 in punitive damages for alienation of affection.