If you are considering divorce and adultery is involved, you may wonder what impact this will have on your divorce proceedings. North Carolina is a “no-fault” state, meaning you can get divorced for any reason. However, this doesn’t mean that your behavior during a marriage is irrelevant to the final divorce settlement.
Adultery can bring different outcomes to the amount of alimony and post-separation support and possibly even affect equitable distribution, child custody, and child support payment amounts. Let’s look at each of these factors and how adultery affects divorce in North Carolina.
What is Adultery in North Carolina?
No one understands how hurtful adultery can feel until a spouse chooses to commit adultery against you. No matter if your sister’s husband committed adultery and you walked her through all of the difficulties.
Until you hear your spouse admit adultery, you don’t realize how much a spouse committing adultery will affect your relationship as a married couple.
The legal definition for adultery in NC lists it as a type of marital misconduct. There are many ways a married person in North Carolina can cause their spouse to feel betrayed in their marriage relationship.
Divorce law calls adultery a type of illicit sexual behavior that includes when a spouse voluntarily engages in acts of sexual (or same sex) sexual intercourse or sexual acts, or acts defined in G.S. 14-27.20(4) with someone other than their spouse.
How Absolute Divorce Proceedings Work in North Carolina
It’s a common misconception that adultery is a ground for divorce. However, in NC, adultery may affect the outcome of your final divorce agreement, but it is not the reason the court is willing to sign off on your divorce.
A divorce in North Carolina requires at least one year of living separately and apart from your spouse (or incurable insanity of a spouse).
You don’t need to have any formal agreements between the two of you – simply separate and live apart. After twelve months, it’s time to file for the final divorce decree!
Once you live apart for one year, you can submit your divorce application to the courts to begin the divorce process. Whether there was marital infidelity, an extramarital affair lasting for years, abuse, or other unreasonable behaviour, the divorce court will grant the divorce based on your year long separation.
However, your actions in marriage do matter and we will discuss why, so keep reading!
Separation Agreements and Alimony
Even though North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, your actions during your marriage can affect your separation agreement and, eventually, your divorce terms.
Before filing a divorce petition, you must find a way to separate and work through how your new circumstances will work. You’ll need to consider issues such as:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Equitable distribution of assets
- Alimony or post-separation support
- Child visitation
- Financial aspects of your new arrangement including staying on the same page about bank statements and marital funds in general
- Money spent on new housing
- How to handle property division with your former partner
- What to do about irreconcilable differences (talk with your attorney!)
Separation agreements form the basis for how divorces play out in the courtroom. Since the way that you live during your separation year can affect your final divorce decree, it’s crucial to work with your divorce attorney to lay out financial settlements and work to prove adultery long before you file for your divorce.
Your divorce attorney can help you and protect your rights along the way.
How Adultery May Affect a Divorce Settlement
When deciding on spousal support, judges consider a variety of elements. Ultimately, the conditions you negotiate with your partner throughout the separation process will be a part of your ultimate divorce settlement.
When determining alimony and division of property, judges consider the marital misconduct of either of the spouses through the court date.
The court also looks at factors such as:
- Earning capacities of each spouse
- Age and physical, mental, and emotional factors affecting each spouse
- Time length of the marriage
- Standard of living during the marriage and the needs of each spouse now
- Homemaker contributions
- Contributions by spouse to education, training, or earnings of the other
- Education of each spouse
- Education for the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet their needs
- Financial impact of custody of children
- All income: earnings, dividends, benefits such as medical insurance, retirement funds, other insurance, or Social Security
- Property brought to the marriage
- Assets and liabilities
- Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms to live separately for one year, you may apply for a DBB “Divorce From Bed & Board.” This is not a type of divorce. A DBB is a type of legal separation with judicial action.
When there is an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage that prevents you from separating without help, a DBB court proceeding considers how to separate and live apart from each other.
A DBB is not an absolute divorce and does not grant the right to remarry. Grounds for a “Divorce from Bed & Board” in North Carolina include:
- Abandonment (that is, willfully leaving the marriage without just cause or the consent of the other spouse)
- Maliciously turning the other spouse out of doors
- Cruel or barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other
- Indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs causing indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
If you’re contemplating a divorce from bed and board, it is imperative that you make an appointment with a skilled divorce attorney to go over your evidence and formulate an effective strategy for the hearing.
Taking the initial steps towards a divorce from bed and board may prove to be the most efficient way of obtaining an absolute divorce with a financial settlement reflecting the spouse’s infidelity.
It is imperative to note that a DBB is a separation in North Carolina. It does not grant the right to remarry as an absolute divorce does.
When You’re Ready for Separation and Divorce
If your spouse committed adultery, you can be in a world of hurt. However, it is possible for you to come out stronger on the other side. Taking the time to figure out whether or not you should separate after adultery can be a difficult decision.
Nevertheless, with patience, guidance from professionals and trusted individuals in your life, you can make an informed choice that is best for yourself and any children involved.
If you determine a separation is the right path for you, allow us at Plekan Law to help. Our specialized separation and divorce lawyers can assist in creating a legally binding agreement that will stand with you into the future.
Not only can we aid you in securing child custody, visitation rights, and support payments at any hearings necessary, but our services extend to helping you acquire spousal support during your separation or alimony after the dissolution of marriage.
Contact us today and find out how we can help you move forward!