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A Law that Lets You Steal Someone's Wife?


The idea of women as the property of their husbands seems archaic and even offensive in today's world. But a recent divorce case has brought to light the fact that seven states still have laws based on that very concept. And, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to uphold one such law, a Mississippi man will receive $112,000.

Several years ago, a man named Johnny Valentine suspected that his wife, Sandra, was cheating on him, according to reports from the Associated Press. When she became pregnant, he allegedly insisted on paternity testing and found that his suspicions had been correct.

Valentine's then-wife had been romantically involved with her boss, Jerry Fitch, a multimillionaire, sources say. The two divorced, and Sandra reportedly married her lover. But the drama was far from over for the trio.

Reports indicate that Valentine sued Fitch under a Mississippi divorce law that allows for financial compensation in "alienation of affection" cases. Basically, the law means that a husband whose wife cheats on him is entitled to payment from whoever caused the wife's affection to wander elsewhere. The payment is meant to cover the "loss" suffered by the husband, who had the right to all his wife's affections.

Sound dated?

The Mississippi Supreme Court didn't think so. After a lower court reportedly awarded Valentine more than $750,000 in divorce hearings, the Mississippi high court upheld the decision that included $112,000 worth of compensatory damages for alienation of affection charges.

But Fitch doesn't think he should have to pay that $112,000. And his wife apparently agrees. In a report from NBC News, Mrs. Fitch said that her new husband's advances were not responsible for her alienation from Valentine-Valentine's gambling habit was.

In a country where a woman is a prominent potential presidential candidate, Mrs. Fitch's explanation sounds much more logical than the legal decision. But the law still stands. In fact, the law in Mississippi may have a loophole that Valentine didn't count on. In 2003, Mississippi outlawed punishment for "intimate conduct," a legal construct that was often used to prosecute sodomy cases.

According to sources, Mr. Fitch claims that no intimate act between consenting adults can be legally punished.It's this reasoning that has led him to contest only the $112,000 in punitive damages, and not the rest of the more than $600,000 ruling.

But in Mississippi, Mr. Fitch has reportedly had no luck. The state's Supreme Court has ruled that its decision is based on laws meant to protect the "love, society, comfort, and companionship that form the foundation of a marriag," according to sources. And so, Mr. Fitch, the millionaire who "stole" another man's wife, will take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Makes you long for the good old days, when people just wanted their divorces to be finalized.

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