South Carolina House Judiciary Committee Proposes Repeal of Antiquated Family Laws

On Tuesday, March 2, 2016, the House Judiciary Committee of the South Carolina House of Representatives unanimously voted to recommend repeal of many outdated laws that are “still on the books” in the State which relate to family law issues. Among those laws recommended for repeal are those making it illegal to have an extra-marital affair and those making it illegal to seduce a woman with the promise of marriage.

Across the United States, most states have laws which are outdated based on societal standards but that are still technically law. For example, one of the laws recommended for repeal in South Carolina makes the act of premarital sex a crime, punishable by penalty of up to one year in prison and a $500 fine. This law is more than 125 years old, dating to 1880. Often these antiquated laws have even been ruled unconstitutional, yet the state legislature has not acted to repeal the law. South Carolina, along with many other states, still have a law against sodomy, which was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas over a decade ago in 2003.

These South Carolina statutes relating to sexual acts have not been enforced in decades, or even a century regardless of their constitutionality. As House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney put it, “It’s not good to have laws you don’t enforce.” Additionally, these laws often contain language which many would now consider to be offensive. As set forth in the South Carolina statute making it illegal to seduce a woman with the promise of marriage, a man may not be convicted of that crime based on the woman’s testimony alone if she is considered “lewd and unchaste”. The societal acceptance of women as equals to men occurred many years after these laws were invoked so the language contained in these types of statutes often demean and disparage women.

North Carolina has many similar laws to those identified by repeal in South Carolina. An aggrieved spouse may file actions for Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation against the party with whom their spouse had an affair in order to hold that financially responsible for the harm they caused. These actions, often referred to as “Heart Balm” torts, have long since been discarded throughout most of the nation, with North Carolina as one of only a few states remaining that still permit these claims related to an extra-marital affair.

If your spouse had an extra-marital affair, please call us today at 980-939-0233 to schedule a consultation with a North Carolina Family Law Attorney to learn about and protect your rights.

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