Divorce in North Carolina is a no-fault event. Grounds for a divorce do not include bad behavior, such as adultery. However, one spouse’s infidelity can affect the outcome of the divorce settlement. If you are considering a divorce and your spouse has cheated on you, it is crucial to understand the implications of adultery in North Carolina. So what happens in a divorce when a spouse cheats? Let’s find out.

The Divorce Process in North Carolina

The divorce process in North Carolina starts with a one-year separation. You don’t need legal documents or a separation agreement to prove you are legally separated.

However, you must meet two requirements (or grounds) to file for divorce:

  1. You must live separately and apart from your spouse for one year.
  2. One of you must have lived in North Carolina for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.

You and a spouse can stay in the same residence while separated in some states. However, North Carolina divorce laws clarify that you and your spouse must live separately in separate homes for one year before you can file divorce papers.

It’s essential to understand that any sexual relations occurring during the separation period may affect the terms of the final divorce decree. Whether you have a broken marriage is not a point of law. While you and your spouse may live separately, you are still a married couple in North Carolina.

Filing for Divorce in North Carolina

Once you’ve met the two grounds for divorce, one spouse can file the divorce petition.

North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that a judge will grant a divorce regardless of the behavior of a married person. You don’t need to state that your wife cheated or that your husband was emotionally abusive and cheating to go to court for a divorce.

However, cheating or an affair can affect property division and spousal support. And abusive behavior can affect the custody and visitation of minor children. Talk with your family law attorney to find out next steps if you’re in an abusive relationship and need help.

How a Cheating Spouse Can Affect Divorce Proceedings

Whether the husband or wife cheated, in a divorce case where one committed adultery and the other did not, the divorce terms may favor the one who did not have an extramarital affair.

Post-Separation Support

Spousal support includes both post-separation support and alimony. Financial support can help a spouse who cannot support themselves. If your resources are inadequate to meet your reasonable needs and your spouse can pay, a court can determine that you deserve spousal support based on financial hardship. If the court chooses to establish spousal support in the form of post-separation support or alimony, they will issue a court order.

Infidelity can affect the amount of support a spouse may receive from the cheating spouse.

If you need help with your finances during the separation period, working with a family law divorce attorney from the beginning is essential. With a divorce based on cheating, you might have a case for immediate support.


Alimony is the spousal support the judge decrees at the final divorce hearing. The cheating of your spouse can hurt their finances. If you can prove your spouse’s cheating, the court will likely award you alimony, even if you don’t need financial support to live at your accustomed standard.

Child Custody and Visitation

Cheating in a marriage does not generally affect child custody. The “best interests of the child” are the basis for decisions in a child custody case. The court does not determine child custody issues based on a parent’s marital problems unless they affect the child negatively.

The judge may look at several factors when making child custody decisions, including:

  • Parental living arrangements and ability to care for the child
  • Child’s relationship with each parent
  • Factors affecting the welfare and best interest of the child

North Carolina’s primary consideration in these cases is the child’s best interest. Consequently, adultery seldom influences this ruling if it has not placed kids at risk and their parent remains fit. Thus, most often, a spouse who commits adultery still has some legal custody rights, depending on the court’s overall decision.

Talking with a child custody law firm can help you solve child custody issues, especially if you worry about potential harm to your children!

Child Support

In a divorce proceeding, many factors are at play when it comes to child support. However, In North Carolina, adultery is not a factor. The court determines child support via the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

The North Carolina Child Support Guideline worksheets assess the amount of child support based on the:

  • Income of both parties
  • Number of nights the child spends in each parent’s custody
  • Work-related childcare expenses
  • Costs of the minor child’s health insurance paid by the parties
  • Extraordinary expenses

Extraordinary expenses can include expenses for the child’s educational needs, such as attendance at a private school or costs related to the child’s travel between parents.

Equitable Distribution of Property

Marital assets or marital property in North Carolina include everything you own, including a home in only one spouse’s name. A judge may allow a cheating matter to affect a divorce settlement of assets if the cheating partner used marital assets to carry on an affair.

It can often help to review your credit card statements or hire forensic accountants to help you prove where your spouse spent money on their cheating or a new partner.

You can also consider filing an Alienation of Affection or Criminal Conversation lawsuit to sue the person who cheated with your spouse.

Our Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorneys Can Help

At Plekan Law, our divorce attorneys work with couples across the state to help spouses receive what they deserve when their marriage faces ruin from infidelity. 

We understand the devastation of cheating spouses and want to help you reach your best outcome, including needed spousal support, in the divorce process.

Contact us today to speak with an experienced divorce attorney and learn more about your legal rights going forward.