Keila Szpaller

(Daily Montanan) If your spouse cheats on you and you get a divorce, your pocketbook will suffer.

With House Bill 204, Rep. Bob Phalen, R-Lindsay, wants you to be able to recover financially.

“This bill does one thing,” Phalen said. “It gives adulterated victims of divorce a means of recouping losses caused by the adultery.”

Phalen, who presented the legislation Monday to the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill would restore an “alienation of affection” law removed from the books in 1963.

“When the loss of affection or consortium of a spouse is caused by the wrongful act of another, the injured spouse may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the loss of affection or consortium,” reads the bill.

But Robin Turner, representing the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said such laws were established when women were considered property, and society has evolved.

“They were established back in a time when female spouses were considered a husband’s property, and therefore, a loss of their usefulness to a husband created a cause of action for monetary damages,” Turner said.

She noted the legislature outlawed marital rape in 1996, and spouses have the right to leave a relationship that isn’t safe or healthy.

With the proposal, however, she said a spouse could sue an ex-spouse’s family member or a pastor or friend who helped the ex-spouse leave the marriage.

In fact, Turner said an abusive spouse could file a lawsuit against anyone they view as interfering with their marriage, and a victimized spouse might be called repeatedly as a witness.

Even the threat of a lawsuit might be coercive, Turner said.

However, proponent Ty Kuehn, who identified himself as “a victim and survivor of adultery,” said he lost 35 years of his retirement to keep the business his dad started after his spouse left him.

“In our society, divorce has become the norm, tearing families apart with very little consequence,” Kuehn said.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.