Heart Balm Statute

Ms. D was watching Tokyo Tarareba Girls and asked me about one of the scenes where this girl, who was dating a married man, was being reprimanded by her friends who told her that if things go awry, she might lose money too. The question: Why would she lose money?

The reason was simple. The wife could sue her and she would have to pay damages. But the interesting thing is, this Heart Balm statute is not available in most countries now except for Japan and some states in the USA. The original reason for this statute was to punish the third party for alienation of affection, pushing a spouse away from their husband/wife. Such lawsuits are called Heart Balm because the law acts as a balm for the heart of the jilted.

However, this is an archaic law that has been abolished by most nations around the world because the legal system believes that such matters of the heart should not be treated as legal wrongs where money damages or other relief are available. Rather, divorces should be a matter of fairly addressing child custody, child support, and property/finances so that the parties can move on with their respective lives.

It’s even more interesting that despite the existence of Heart Balm laws, affairs with married persons are still very common in Japan, such that it’s no longer a surprise seeing it on news of celebrities who cheat on their spouses. And definitely not rare among the common people, with a street survey revealing that 1 in 4 women has cheated on their partner.

I wonder how much money has been made and lost from such affairs. Somewhere, there could be some crafty couple making it a business by setting out to cheat with a third party, sue the said third party for some 3 million yen (approx. SGD$36,000), and then abandon them.

Sounds very possible.


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