Divorce, no matter what the cause, is a painful experience. But when your spouse commits adultery, it can impact the legal process of your divorce case. Take the time to learn about the North Carolina divorce laws for adultery to protect your rights.
Is Adultery a Legal Ground for Divorce in NC?
North Carolina divorce laws recognize two grounds for divorce: separation for 12 consecutive months and incurable insanity. Therefore, adultery is not a legal ground for divorce in North Carolina.
It is, however, a ground for legal separation (or divorce from bed and board). A cheating spouse grants you the right to file for a legal separation without absolute divorce. You may request a legal separation under North Carolina law.
One thing about the North Carolina divorce law is that it is one of only a few states in the US that allows the spouse to file a civil lawsuit against your spouse’s lover. This lawsuit should be filed separately from the divorce case and submitted to the civil court system. Your lawsuit can fall under one of two categories: criminal conversation or alienation of affection.
Insight into the Civil Lawsuit for Cheating Spouses in NC
While you cannot file for divorce based on adultery, you may file a civil lawsuit against the person who interfered with your marriage. Innocent spouses can pursue a case as “criminal conversation” or “alienation of affection.”
A criminal conversation lawsuit is a civil case. The case is brought to the civil court by the plaintiff or the injured party. To file this case, you must present solid evidence that your spouse engaged in sexual relations outside your marriage with the defendant. The most common method of obtaining proof of adultery is by hiring a private investigator.
The evidence presented must show proof that the sexual relations took place between the defendant and your spouse and that it happened during the time of your marriage. Make sure that the case is filed within three years from when your spouse committed the act and that you have proof that you were legally married when the incident happened.
Alienation of affection is another civil case you may file against an unfaithful spouse. The plaintiff or complaining party must prove that there was third party interference on the good relations in your marriage. As a result of the sexual relations outside the marriage, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered damage from the incident. There is no need to provide evidence of the sexual act between your spouse and the third party or defendant. Make sure that you can show proof of alienation by your spouse.
How Does Adultery Affect Divorce Cases in North Carolina?
Adultery is a serious act that could damage marriages and relationships. It is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce, but still, committing adultery can impact settlement agreements during the finalization of the divorce.
Even though the court cannot grant the absolute divorce after your spouse has committed adultery, you can use it as a ground to seek legal separation by the Bed and Board. The divorce from Bed and Board is a fault-based and court-ordered legal separation from your spouse. The court will award you with alimony if you are the financially-dependent party. The amount of the alimony will vary greatly, although it could be equal to or more than what is typically awarded without adultery.
Alimony is the financial support awarded to a spouse by the court. This court order follows the divorce process or as a result of the supported spouse winning a civil case against their ex-spouse in civil court. If the cheating spouse is ordered by the court to pay alimony, the amount can be paid in a lump sum or by installments over a given period.
The spouse requesting alimony in North Carolina must prove to the court that they are financially dependent on the marriage. The court will assess each party’s earnings and financial capacity when evaluating alimony requests. The goal is to ensure that the alimony award is equitable to both parties. Other factors, like length of the marriage and sources of income can be a factor in determining the alimony paid to the injured spouse.
The act of adultery won’t impact a judge’s decision about the division of marital property, especially if the extramarital affair is not directly linked to the couple’s economic status. In this case, adultery is a non-factor in the division of property.
However, if the plaintiff can prove that the adulterous act has affected the finances within their marriage, it could factor in the judge’s decision. For example, if the cheating spouse spent an unacceptably high amount of money on their lover, the judge would factor that into the division of assets between the spouses. The court could grant the injured spouse the ownership of the family home, for example.
Adultery in divorce could also be a factor in child custody and support agreements. In most cases, adultery does not affect child custody agreements during divorce settlements. The standard for North Carolina law concerning child custody is to consider “the best interests of the child.”
The court will determine if the unfaithful spouse exposed the child to inappropriate sexual behavior or if they endangered the lives of the children as a result of their adulterous acts, then the judge could rule against their favor. However, if this is not the case, it wouldn’t affect the court’s decision on the matter. The same is true when determining the child support settlements in a divorce.
A Divorce Attorney in NC Can Help!
Navigating the complex divorce laws in North Carolina can be overwhelming, especially if you have to deal with the pain of a cheating spouse. Working with an experienced divorce attorney will reassure you that your divorce case could work out in your favor because you have someone well-versed in the law at your side.
If you find out your spouse committed adultery, speak with an attorney immediately. You can use their expertise to develop a legal strategy to protect your rights.