The Impact of Adultery on Divorce

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


The act of adultery of one or both spouses is one of the biggest reasons that couples get divorced. North Carolina is a no-fault state in regards to divorce. This means that the spouse who files for divorce is not required to prove that the other spouse is at fault for the divorce. In some states, adultery is one of the “faults” that a spouse can cite as a reason for divorce. This is not true in North Carolina. Nevertheless, adultery can have an impact on a divorce. Alimony payments, child custody, and property distribution can all be affected by adultery.



North Carolina allows for alimony payments from one spouse to the other in some instances. The party who is seeking alimony payments must show that he or she is financially dependent on the other spouse.


In addition, the court must find that awarding alimony to one spouse is equitable. Even if all of these elements have been satisfied, there is still potential for an alimony payment to be denied in the event of adultery. If the party seeking the alimony has been found to participate in any “illicit sexual behavior,” like adultery, the court will deny the alimony. Alternatively, a cheating spouse might be required to pay more alimony at the discretion of the judge presiding over the case.


Child Custody


There are no specific statutes or regulations that penalize one spouse for committing adultery by denying him or her custody of the children. However, when determining child custody, the court looks at what is in the best interest of the children. Adultery alone does not usually harm a child. The other spouse, though, could use the adultery to show that the cheating spouse is not responsible or stable enough to care for the child. It is extremely rare for a judge to award custody based off of one parent’s extramarital affair, but there is the possibility that a judge could conclude that the affair had, or will have, a negative impact on the children’s lives should they stay with that parent.


Property Distribution


Adultery does not have an effect on the judge’s decision in dividing marital property. The only time that it could potentially be a factor is if the extramarital affair involved both spouse’s finances. If the spouse that is engaging in an extramarital affair has either spent a significant amount of money during the affair, or accumulated a large amount of debt as a result of the affair, a judge might take that into consideration.


If you are considering divorce, you need an attorney who will look out for your best interests. The divorce attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are on your side. We will fight to get you the best alimony payment, or the lowest amount of alimony paid. Our concern is for you and making sure you are given all the tools needed to embark on this next chapter in your life. If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter and need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), 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.





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