What is Marital Misconduct?


The law of North Carolina defines marital misconduct as follows:

“Marital misconduct means any of the following acts that occur during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation:

  1. Illicit sexual behavior, meaning acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.20(4), voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the spouse;
  2. Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought;
  3. Abandonment of the other spouse;
  4. Malicious turning out-of-doors of the other spouse;
  5. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;
  6. Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
  7. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets;
  8. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
  9. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one’s means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.”

Marital misconduct can play a significant role regarding the effects of getting a divorce. One area in which marital misconduct proves to be important is in dealing with spousal support. Spousal support includes post-separation support and alimony.

If the court finds that the supporting spouse, the spouse who financially supports the other, has committed infidelity, or illicit sexual behavior, then the Court can award alimony to the dependent spouse taking the marital misconduct as a factor, meaning the amount and/or duration of the support obligations can increase.

On the other hand, if the Court finds that the dependent spouse, the spouse who financially relied on the other, has committed infidelity, then the dependent spouse is barred from receiving alimony from the supporting spouse, but is not necessarily barred from receiving postseparation support from the supporting spouse.

In addition to having an effect on spousal support, marital misconduct may have an effect on distribution of property. In this instance, an issue may arise if marital assets, such as a joint account, were used to facilitate the misconduct, or if the marital misconduct is economic in nature, meaning marital assets were used in furtherance of the adulterous relationship, then the assets used would be factored in to the division of the marital estate. .

If you need legal advice regarding alimony or post-separation support, please contact one of our lawyers at Jetton & Meredith. Our family law attorneys are equipped with knowledge and experience to help you navigate through these difficult times.