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How Will My Spouse’s Affair Affect My Divorce in North Carolina?

Despite Hollywood’s flair for affairs, cheating is not the top reason for divorce. However, affairs are certainly a common cause of divorce and, whether you cheated or your spouse did, it can affect your legal split.

An affair is called marital misconduct in North Carolina. That term also refers to abuse, reckless spending, abandonment, an excessive use of drugs or alcohol, among other things. However, you don’t file for divorce on the “grounds” of marital misconduct. You must still separate for one year. Once you file for divorce, your partner’s affair may affect proceedings in the following ways: 

  • Alimony – The liaison may help your case for alimony. While alimony is not always awarded to either spouse, cheating may affect the amount or duration of alimony if given. 
  • Custody – If you are proven to be an unfit parent for some reason, your spouse’s cheating won’t matter. But judges may take the affair into consideration when settling custody disputes. (Still, even if you furious, it’s best to settle custody out of court with a parenting agreement.) 
  • Property Division – An affair will not likely affect property division. Judges don’t punish one party for his or her bad behavior. However, if your spouse hurt your marriage financially in his or her affair, that might be taken into consideration. 

Other Considerations

  • Proving the Affair – You do not need proof of the affair if you are using it as a reason for your divorce, but there must be evidence he or she had an opportunity and was inclined to have a relationship. 
  • Alienation of Affection – You can also sue your partner or his/her lover in civil court. This is called Alienation of Affection. This suit does not bring jail time or criminal penalties but instead may award you money for loss of income or medical bills. By filing this suit, you are claiming you had a loving marriage, that love and affection have been destroyed, that you have been damaged in some way, and that the destroying of the love is due to the defendant’s behavior. You must file this suit within three years from the date of the last wrongful act. While you do not have to prove sexual intercourse, you must prove his or her actions ended the marriage. In fact, some bring this suit against the spouse’s lover or the spouse’s mother-in-law, for example, if she advised her son to leave the marriage. 

Schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys about the various ways your partner’s affair will impact your divorce. Or, ask a divorce lawyer during our monthly divorce workshop, held on the second Saturday of each month.


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