How Does Marital Misconduct Affect Alimony?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

September 5, 2016

In a divorce, the court may divide marital property and debt via equitable distribution. It may also award spousal support, or alimony, to one party to support that party’s reasonable needs. In determining whether to award alimony and how much should be allocated, the court will consider many factors, including marital misconduct.

If you have questions regarding a divorce or award of alimony, North Carolina divorce lawyer Jonathan Breeden can help. He will evaluate your case and help you obtain the best outcome possible. Call him today at (919) 661-4970.

How Alimony is Established

Either spouse may request an award of spousal support. The court will then determine which spouse is dependent and which is supporting based on income and other financial records. A dependent spouse is a spouse who cannot afford their reasonable bills on the income they earn and the child support they receive, if any. A supporting spouse is a spouse who has extra income left over each month after they pay their reasonable bills, including child support. An award can only go to a dependent spouse. The amount of alimony, frequency of payment, and length of payment is also determined by the court.

Factors considered when determining whether to award alimony and how much support should be given include the following from North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 50-16.3:

  • Marital misconduct
  • Earnings and earning capacities of both spouses
  • Ages and health conditions of both spouses
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • Care provided to a minor child
  • Standard of living of both spouses
  • Education level of both spouses
  • Separate and marital property
  • Contribution of a homemaker
  • Tax ramifications

The Impact of Cheating on Alimony

The first factor listed when considering the award, amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony is marital misconduct. The court will certainly consider if either spouse cheated on the other, as well as if both spouses engaged in marital misconduct.
If a dependent spouse is found to have participated in illicit sexual behavior during the marriage and prior to the date of separation, alimony will not be awarded. However, if the supporting spouse cheated, the court will still have to determine how much money that spouse has left over each month after they pay their reasonable bills. If both people engaged in marital misconduct, the court has discretion based on the circumstances.

Other Acts of Misconduct That Affect Alimony

Marital misconduct doesn’t just mean cheating on a spouse. It can include other situations that make life intolerable for a spouse, such as:

  • Abandonment of the other spouse
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse
  • Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome
  • Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets

As with cheating spouses, the court will look at who did what to whom and how long the acts were committed. In fact, the court reserves the right to review incidents that occurred after the couple separated if those incidents corroborate the evidence presented for events that happened during the marriage. Either spouse may also request a jury trial when determining marital misconduct and its effect on an alimony award. In such a case, the jury may decide if marital misconduct was committed, but only a judge can award an amount and duration of alimony.

Contact a North Carolina Attorney

Divorce is an emotional process that a person should not have to deal with alone. Seeking the advice of a family law attorney can make your divorce case and alimony issues go much more smoothly. North Carolina divorce attorney Jonathan Breeden is experienced in dealing with the intricacies of divorce cases, including alimony and marital misconduct issues. If you are looking for an experienced attorney to help you with your case, call (919) 661-4970 today.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden