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What is Considered Marital Misconduct?

There are many different acts that can constitute marital misconduct in North Carolina. Usually, allegations of marital misconduct only arise in the context of a divorce or an action for alimony without divorce.

A North Carolina family law firm could represent you if you are alleging marital misconduct on the part of your spouse or your spouse has accused you of marital misconduct. Let’s discuss what is considered marital misconduct in our state.

Statutory Definition of Marital Misconduct in North Carolina

According to NCGS § 50-16.1A, North Carolina recognizes these acts as marital misconduct if they happened during the marriage and before the couple separated:

  • Illicit sexual behavior which could include deviance or extramarital affairs.
  • Involuntary separation of the spouse is because of a criminal act that happened before the divorce or other legal action got filed.
  • Abandonment of the spouse.
  • Maliciously throwing the spouse out of the house.
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment so severe that it endangered the spouse’s life.
  • Conduct that made life intolerable and burdensome for the other spouse.
  • Wasteful spending or concealing, diverting, destroying, or wasting assets.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or other drugs to the point that the other spouse found it burdensome and intolerable.
  • Refusing to provide the financial resources needed for survival despite having the financial means to do so.

The party alleging marital misconduct has the burden of proof to present sufficient evidence to convince the judge that it was more likely than not that the conduct actually happened.

Consequences of Marital Misconduct

Many people mistakenly think that if they can prove their spouse committed marital misconduct, like infidelity, that the “innocent” spouse can take the “guilty” spouse to the cleaners. Having an affair does not change the amount of child support in the divorce. A spouse who has an affair will not lose their parental rights because of the infidelity. 

Infidelity can, however, affect spousal support in some situations. The equitable distribution of property, however, usually does not change because of an affair. Squandering assets or spending a lot of money on people with whom a spouse has an affair could impact property distribution to the extent that the misconduct depleted marital assets. 

Also, the judge could “punish” a spouse who tries to hide or divert assets. For example, emptying bank accounts and putting the cash into a safe deposit box, cutting off the other spouse’s access to credit cards or the checking account, and transferring assets to other people with the expectation of getting them back after the divorce could affect property distribution.

How to Handle the Issue of Marital Misconduct in a North Carolina Divorce

You do not want to represent yourself without an attorney if marital misconduct is an issue in your divorce, particularly if your spouse has a lawyer. You should be candid and frank with your attorney about the facts that are relevant to the allegations of marital misconduct. Your lawyer will need time to prepare for marital misconduct allegations. They do not want to get blindsided at court with no evidence to defend you. Be aware that false statements made in depositions or in court while under oath can be perjury in civil cases like divorce. A North Carolina family law attorney can help you navigate these dangerous waters and champion your side in the divorce case. Reach out to our office today for help with your case.