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Cynthia Shackelford had dreamed of the day that she would sit on the front porch with her husband after decades of marriage, reminiscing about the days when their children were still small. Sadly, that dream won’t ever become a reality—but Cynthia’s not taking that news lying down. Instead, she recently sued her husband’s mistress and won millions of dollars—sending a strong message to would-be home-wreckers everywhere to back off married men.

Granted, Cynthia’s story is not unlike that of any other jilted wife: she believed her husband of 33 years, Allan Shackelford, to be deeply in love with her, but soon discovered his cheating ways after months of suspicious “late nights” at the office and miscellaneous charges on credit card and cell phone bills. Finally, a private investigator confirmed Cynthia’s worst fears: Allan was having an affair with Anne Lundquist, dean of students at Wells College in Aurora, NY.

Under a centuries-old North Carolina law, Cynthia sued Lundquist for “alienation of affection”, charging that the woman had broken up her 33-year marriage, leaving her and her children devastated. Last week, she won: the jury ordered Lundquist to pay Cynthia $5 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages. While the large jury verdict is unusual, the law isn’t—at least in North Carolina. In fact, the state sees some 200 alienation of affection claims each year. However, North Carolina is still one of only 7 other states to recognize alienation of affection claims, where spouses are able to sue third parties that they allege interfere with their marriages.

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