Does Marital Misconduct Affect Divorce Proceedings in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Does adultery affect my divorce case?”


Although couples can obtain a no-fault divorce in North Carolina, marital misconduct may play a prominent role in divorce proceedings. Specifically, any acts that constitute marital misconduct may affect such aspects of divorce as alimony and even child custody.


argument-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Marital-misconduct-Lawyer-300x225Does Marital Misconduct Play a Role in North Carolina Divorce?

While North Carolina is a no-fault state where spouses can seek an absolute divorce, either party’s unacceptable or improper behavior, which may have contributed to the end of the marriage, plays a significant role in the divorce process.

To grant a divorce order in North Carolina, a court will consider whether a couple has been separated for a year, instead of trying to determine why the marriage is ending or which party is to blame.

Note: Under certain circumstances, North Carolina law allows you to get a divorce without waiting a year.

Nevertheless, North Carolina courts factor in marital misconduct, especially when it comes to awarding spousal support and child custody.


What is Marital Misconduct in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s family law statutes consider it marital misconduct when either spouse does any of the following:

  • Engaging in illicit sexual behavior (deviant sexual acts, criminal sexual acts, or having sexual intercourse with someone other than the spouse)
  • Involuntarily separating due to an illegal act of a spouse
  • Abandonment
  • Malicious turning out-of-doors
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs, which made the spouse intolerable or life burdensome
  • Reckless spending of the income or other indignities (waste, concealment or diversion of assets)
  • Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence

If any of these acts occur during a marriage, they may be considered marital misconduct.


How Does Marital Misconduct Affect Alimony?

Marital misconduct has a major effect on spousal support and alimony proceedings in North Carolina.

If a higher-earning spouse engaged in adultery during the marriage, the dependent spouse may be entitled to spousal support under the state law. By contrast, the dependent spouse, who is found to have engaged in adultery, cannot receive alimony.

Note: Spouses can sue their unfaithful spouse’s lover for “alienation of affection” in North Carolina.

North Carolina courts have tremendous discretion in setting alimony and determining the amount and duration of a spousal support award. Marital misconduct is listed as the first factor in North Carolina’s alimony statute.


How Does Marital Misconduct Affect Child Custody?

If one parent shows evidence of marital misconduct on the part of the other parent, this factor can limit the accused parent’s visitation and access to children.

North Carolina courts are concerned with the best interest of children. It goes without saying that domestic violence, criminal acts, sexual offenses, and substance abuse are not in the interests of the child. Therefore, if a parent’s marital misconduct involves anything that may endanger the child, that parent could be deemed unfit.

If your spouse engaged in marital misconduct, talk to a Charlotte divorce attorney to discuss its potential effects on your divorce proceedings, including child custody, alimony, property division, and child support. If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter and need the help of experienced family-law attorneys, speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or at our new office in Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.





Image Credit:



See Our Related Video from our YouTube channel:



See Our Related Blog Posts:

‘Alienation of Affections’ in North Carolina: Sue Your Spouse’s Lover for Destroying Marriage

What is Alienation of Affection?

Contact Information