Don’t you Dare!
May 27, 2011 Leave a comment
Reading alienation of affection cases is somewhat like flipping through the tabloids while standing in line at Kroger. This week the MSSC handed down Dare v. Stokes, an interesting domestic case with alienation of affection underpinnings.
The basic facts according to the opinion:
While Paul and Sharon Stokes were married, Dr. Daniel Dare had an affair with Sharon. Not surprisingly, Paul and Sharon ended up getting a divorce. What was surprising was a clause inserted into their agreed property settlement agreement which stated:
COVENANT NOT TO SUE
Husband hereby covenants and agrees that he will not sue, nor file any lawsuit or any legal action in any Court of this State, or in any Court of any jurisdiction, against Wife, or any other person, regarding any matters relating to the dissolution of their marriage, including any suit for any damages, including, but not limited to, alienation of affection.
After the ink was dry on the judgment and for reasons not explained in the Court’s opinion, Robert filed a motion to modify the property settlement agreement to delete the words “or any other person.” A hearing was held before the Chancellor and Sharon
threw Dr. Dare under the bus did not contest the modification. The Chancellor entered a modification order deleting the “any other person” provision.
Paul’s attorney then sent a letter to Dr. Dare informing him that he intended to file suit for alienation of affection. Dr. Dare’s next step was rather unusual. He attempted to intervene in Paul and Sharon’s divorce case. The only problem with that is Hulett v. Hulett, 152 M iss. 476, 119 So. 581 (1928), where the court prohibited intervention by third parties in divorce proceedings, “in the absence of a statute permitting such intervention . . . .” The Court noted that in the 82 years following Hulett, there has been but one exception and that exception wasn’t applicable in this situation. The Court summed it up nicely “given Dare’s attempt to intermeddle in the divorce proceedings, after having meddled with the marital relationship of Paul and Sharon Stokes, justice hardly “demands intervention” by Dare.” Dare, at ¶ 10.
So what happens now? Dr. Dare is facing the reality of an alienation affection suit and it appears that Sharon isn’t going to help him much. As a side note, I wouldn’t want to be the attorney that drafted the covenant not to sue if Dr. Dare was the one paying the legal fees for the divorce. I don’t know if that occurred here, but it isn’t unusual to see a paramour footing the bills.