SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you believe that someone “stole” your spouse from you, you have the right to sue that person in South Dakota for alienation of affection.

It’s a little-known law that has been on the books since wives were considered the property of their husbands. While South Dakota changed the law in 2002 to allow women to sue someone who they think broke up their marriage, most cases have been brought by men.

South Dakota, North Carolina, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah all still have alienation of affection laws. But the attorney who has brought dozens of these cases to court in the last two decades says these kinds of lawsuits can still be filed in other states.

“Most every state has some species of this. And it’s called either negligent infliction of emotional distress or intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Attorney Bob Christenson said.

South Dakota’s alienation of affection law

One of the most covered alienation of affection cases in South Dakota was against Glenn Brenner, who was the Pennington County State’s Attorney more than a decade ago. A jury sided in Brenner’s favor, and he went on to marry the woman whose husband had filed the suit.

“So, it’s actually hard to prove one of those suits. You have to prove that it was such a perfect marriage that until this person came in, we were living the dream of Prince Charming and Cinderella and if it wasn’t for this person, this beautiful marriage wouldn’t have continued on. Now how hard is that to prove?” Melissa Magstadt said.

Former South Dakota State Representative Melissa Magstadt unsuccessfully tried to get the legislature to do away with the law in 2012.

“These are not the kind of things that are a silent type of lawsuits. These are interesting lawsuits,” Magstadt said.

One of the arguments for doing away with the law is that the public court filings make people’s personal lives a public spectacle. We heard those concerns from Sioux Falls businessman Jud Pins and his family when we inquired about a new case of alienation of affection filed against Pins by Peter Sanchez. Pins was sued for the same thing, involving the woman he is married to now, about 20 years ago.

Coming up Wednesday in our KELOLAND News Investigation, “Sued for Seduction,” we look into what happened then and the claims made in the current lawsuit.