Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Illinois “Heart Balm” Lawsuits Abolished, Effective January 1, 2016

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Legal News » Illinois “Heart Balm” Lawsuits Abolished, Effective January 1, 2016

The term of legal causes of action (lawsuits) where a person sues another over a “matter of the heart” have long been referred to as “heart balm” lawsuits.  Illinois is in the minority of states that allow such causes of action, although that comes to an end on January 1, 2016.


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The torts that have been abolished are alienation of affections, breach of promise to marry, and criminal conversation.  Alienation of affections refers to the cause of action that a spouse would bring against the other man or other woman who had allegedly pushed their spouse away from them, causing marital problems.  Breach of promise to marry is a cause of action that could be brought when a person enters into an engagement to marry but then cancels it.  Criminal conversation is a legal term for the cause of action brought against a person who is accused of having sex with the plaintiff’s spouse.  Those causes of action are called “heart balm” lawsuits because the act of suing was thought of as a balm applied by the legal system to the jilted spouse’s heart, soothing the emotional pain.

For some time now, Illinois law has already severely limited the ability of those causes of action to succeed.  That is because the modern view in our legal system is that such matters of the heart should not be treated as legal wrongs where money damages or other relief are available.  Instead, the modern view is that divorces should be a matter of fairly addressing child custody, child support, and property/finances so that the parties can move on with their respective lives.  With the abolition of the (seldom used) heart balm causes of action, Illinois will further move into the modern era.

Those who are facing a divorce case in Illinois should not see the lack of a heart balm remedy as a problem.  Illinois divorce law is well developed to allow proper remedies for just about every situation in a divorce case.


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