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October 30, 2020 Blog

How Does Adultery Impact Your Divorce Case in North Carolina?

woman struggling with mental healthAdultery can have a significant effect on a North Carolina divorce. Even though North Carolina is a no-fault state, adultery or infidelity can impact alimony, child custody, and property division. Additionally, in North Carolina, adultery can serve as grounds for a divorce from bed and board. If you have proof of or suspect that your spouse has been involved in an adulterous affair, or if you have been accused of committing adultery by your spouse, it is essential to speak with a divorce attorney as soon as possible. Do not take any steps regarding adultery until you speak with an attorney who can help you protect your rights and develop a legal strategy moving forward.

Alimony and Adultery

Adultery can affect a spouse’s ability to receive alimony, also known as spousal support payments. The spouse who would like to receive alimony needs to prove that they are the financially dependent spouse and that the other spouse is a supporting spouse. In this situation, a North Carolina court has the authority to make the supporting spouse pay the dependent spouse on a temporary or ongoing basis. Family court judges make alimony determinations based on equity or fairness for both divorcing spouses.

Even when a court finds that one spouse is entitled to alimony, the court can bar alimony when the dependent spouse has engaged in adultery. Specifically, when the court determines that the dependent spouse has engaged in the act of illicit sexual behavior with another person than their spouse during the marriage, the court may refuse alimony. Keep in mind that this rule only applies when the dependent spouse was engaged in sexual intercourse or other sexual acts with someone before the date of separation. To put it plainly, an adulterous spouse who is financially dependent does not have any right to alimony under North Carolina law.

What if the Supporting Spouse Committed Adultery?

woman struggling with divorceWhat happens when the financially supporting spouse who has more income or assets was the one who engaged in adultery? A North Carolina court determines that the supporting spouse participated in illicit sexual behavior with someone other than his or her spouse during the marriage. It will require the supporting spouse to pay alimony to the dependent spouse. North Carolina law and family court judges frown on adultery,  and they will often impose harsher alimony requirements against the adulterous spouse. For example, they may require the adulterous spouse to pay a greater amount of alimony, or pay alimony for a longer period because the spouse engaged in adultery.

What happens when someone engages in sexual relations with another person after the separation day? While it is possible to receive alimony when engaging in sexual relations with someone other than your spouse after your separation date, a court may view the sexual relationship as proof that you were committing adultery before your separation date. North Carolina family courts have a significant amount of discretion when it comes to awarding alimony. Judges will consider all of the circumstances and facts in your case when making alimons decisions. For example, if both spouses condoned adultery before the date of Separation, the judge will likely not consider adultery when making alimony decisions.

Child Custody and Alimony

As we have seen above, adultery can directly impact the award of alimony payments. The relationship between child custody and adultery is less direct. North Carolina Family Court judges make child custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. While adultery by itself may not directly harm a child, it can help the other spouse’s argument that the spouse who committed adultery is not a responsible parent. The spouse who did not commit adultery may argue that an adulterous affair shows a lack of stability, responsibility, and fitness as a parent.

In some cases, a judge may decide that an affair impacts the child’s best interest negatively and that the child should not reside with the adulterous parent. As with alimony decisions, North Carolina Family Court judges have significant discretion in custody and child support decisions. They will review all of the factors involved in the case and decide based on the child’s best interest.

Property Distribution and Adultery

Typically, adultery will not bear on a North Carolina judge’s decision regarding property division during the divorce. There is one exception, however. When an adulterous affair affects the marital property, the judge will consider how much of the marital assets were spent. For example, suppose one spouse spent a significant amount of money on hotel rooms, vacations, gifts, or accumulated debt as part of the ongoing affair. In that case, the judge will likely consider that amount when dividing property.

Divorce From Bed and Board

In North Carolina, a divorce from bed and board is a court-ordered separation of a married couple. This type of separation is fault-based, meaning the spouse seeking the divorce from bed and board needs to prove that the other spouse has injured him or her. One of the grounds of injury is adultery. Divorce from bed and board can give the petitioning spouse some rights, such as staying in the marital home, claiming alimony, child support, and post-separation support.

Adultery and Civil Lawsuits

North Carolina allows spouses to file civil lawsuits due to adultery. The injured spouse will need to prove that the other spouse engaged in an alienation of affection. The innocent spouse will need to prove that they had a loving marriage, the love and affection was destroyed by wrongful and malicious acts of the third party who engage in adultery with their spouse.

Contact an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Lawyer Today

If you are considering getting a divorce, you need an experienced divorce lawyer on your side. Contact Gailor Hunt Davis Taylor & Gibbs, PLLC, to learn how we can advocate for your rights throughout the divorce process.

The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only. The content on this website is not intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such. The facts relating to every situation are different and you should not act or refrain from acting based upon any information provided on this website without first consulting legal counsel. To obtain legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances, please contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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