Marital Misconduct in North Carolina

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Marital misconduct is not just an old-fashioned term or notion. If you are being accused of some form of marital misconduct or you believe your spouse has participated in this kind of behavior, your divorce proceedings could be affected. Proof of marital misconduct can alter the outcome of certain issues, particularly alimony.

If you are getting a divorce and believe your spouse cheated or participated in another form of inappropriate behavior during your marriage, you need to speak with an attorney right away. Attorney Jonathan Breeden is here to listen to your story. Once he is aware of your and your spouse’s conduct during the marriage, he can determine whether there may be evidence of marital misconduct and inform you of North Carolina divorce law that may be applicable to your case.

Contact Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule an initial case consultation. We have divorce lawyers in Smithfield, Angier, Raleigh, and Garner.

What is Considered Marital Misconduct?

Cheating is a common form of marital misconduct. However, North Carolina also recognizes eight other ways in which a spouse may be considered to have seriously mistreated the other.

North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §50-16.1A(3) defines marital misconduct as any of the follow acts that took place during a marriage, and before the date of separation:

  • Illicit sexual behavior performed with an individual other than the spouse
  • Involuntary separation of the spouses due to a criminal act
  • Abandonment
  • Malicious turning out-of-doors
  • Cruel treatment that endangered the other spouse’s life
  • Indignities that made life for the other spouse burdensome
  • Reckless spending of either spouse’s income, or the concealment of assets
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs that made the other spouse’s life intolerable
  • Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence in such a way that made the other spouse’s life intolerable and burdensome

What Are the Consequences of Marital Misconduct?

If it is proven that you committed any of the above actions, your spouse could get the upper hand in divorce proceedings. Once you are certain that you will separate from your spouse, you should only contact them through your lawyer to avoid providing their side with any evidence of marital misconduct. You never know how your seemingly innocuous statements about the past could be construed as admissions of misconduct by a clever attorney.

Marital misconduct is an important factor that judges use in determining alimony. Alimony refers to the financial support that one former spouse must supply to the other after a divorce. Generally, the supporting spouse must provide alimony to the dependent spouse, unless evidence of their marital misconduct demands otherwise.

If you are a dependent spouse asking for alimony from your supporting spouse, the judge will review several factors, including:

  • Whether you committed marital misconduct
  • The length of your marriage
  • Your age and health
  • The income difference between you and your spouse
  • Your earning capacity
  • Your contributions to the marriage
  • The care you provided to children

Misconduct is usually weighed equally to these other factors in determining alimony awards. But there’s an exception: infidelity. When there is evidence that you cheated on the supporting spouse, you may be barred from receiving alimony. Conversely, a supporting spouse who cheats on the dependent spouse will generally have to provide the dependent spouse with alimony following the divorce.

Does Martial Misconduct Affect Alimony?

When the Supporting Spouse Cheats
You are typically considered the supporting spouse if you earn the most money. North Carolina law looks for the spouse who financially supports the other. A supporting spouse can be either a man or woman. It is a financial and practical consideration, not one based on gender.

If your dependent spouse is able to prove you were unfaithful during the marriage, then the court will order you to pay alimony. The length and duration of which depends on the facts of your situation, including the disparity between your two incomes, your lifestyle during the marriage, and the length of your marriage.

However, if your spouse is wrongly alleging illicit sexual behavior simply to obtain spousal support, speak with an attorney right away. Alimony may be granted to a dependent spouse even if infidelity is not proven. It still benefits you to defend against false accusations, which could extend the duration of alimony or increase the amount you owe. You may also be able to avoid a support obligation entirely if you can establish your spouse’s accusations were knowingly false.

When the Dependent Spouse Is Unfaithful
A dependent spouse found to have committed illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to a separation will not receive spousal support no matter the current or potential income disparity or duration of the marriage.

If your spouse falsely alleges you cheated during the marriage, call an attorney right away. Your husband or wife may make false allegations to try and get out of their financial responsibility. You need a lawyer who will fight back and take steps to show the judge not only that you were never unfaithful, but that you deserve alimony under the law.

A Judge Reviews the Dependent Spouse’s Actions First

A procedural matter outlined in NCGS §50-16.2A may be important during your divorce. This law states that when a dependent spouse requests alimony, the judge will consider that individual’s conduct during the marriage before considering the supporting spouse’s actions.

If you are asking for alimony, be prepared to have your actions reviewed, particularly when it comes to infidelity. You may have evidence that the supporting spouse cheated, which would promote you receiving alimony. However, if the judge is going to hear of your own illicit sexual behavior or other marital misconduct first, this can weaken your stance in court.

Speak with an experienced divorce attorney about how this may impact your divorce if both you and your spouse were unfaithful to one another. In this situation, the judge has the discretion to award or deny alimony.

How Other Types of Marital Misconduct Effect Alimony

Infidelity is commonly discussed in regard to alimony because it is the only type of marital misconduct that may prohibit or force an award. For the other eight types of marital misconduct, the situation is less clear.

When a form of marital misconduct other than illicit sexual behavior is alleged during a divorce, the judge will take a needs-based approach in determining whether alimony is appropriate. Marital misconduct will be one of many factors the judge reviews, and the judge has discretion in how much weight to attribute to the wrongdoing.

Based on the circumstances, the judge may not weigh the evidence of marital misconduct any more than other factors, such as the length of the marriage, the current income disparity, the dependent’s spouse’s potential earning capacity, the age and health of the spouses, marital and separate property, contributions to the marriage by each spouse, and who predominantly cares for the children.

However, if the misconduct is egregious, the judge may give it considerable weight in awarding or denying alimony. You should speak with an attorney regarding your specific situation and how it may impact you or your spouse’s request for support.

Reducing the Impact of Marital Misconduct on a Divorce

Judges have wide discretion in awarding alimony, meaning that the outcome of your divorce proceeding will depend on the facts of your case, and the ability of your lawyer to articulate them in your favor. If you are concerned about the effect of alleged marital misconduct on your divorce proceedings, you should talk to a North Carolina divorce lawyer today. The sooner you get an attorney on your side, the better your chances of ensuring that you and your spouse part ways fairly.

A North Carolina Marital Misconduct Attorney Can Help

Whether you are the supporting or dependent spouse, accusations of infidelity or another type of marital misconduct can have a significant impact on your divorce. If you are fighting to receive alimony, you need an attorney from Breeden Law Office who will protect you from false allegations or gather evidence to establish your spouse’s misdeeds.

When you wish to avoid paying alimony because of your spouse’s cheating or other misconduct, attorney Jonathan Breeden will strive to help you achieve your desired outcome.

To learn more about marital misconduct and its effect on alimony, contact Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 and schedule an appointment.

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