Many people want to know if their spouse’s misconduct during the marriage impacts the property and benefits they will get in their divorce proceedings. The short answer is … it depends. It depends on what type of misconduct the spouse did and what type of proceeding they want the court to consider. The type of spousal misconduct during marriage may influence the outcome of each proceeding in different ways.

“Marital misconduct” includes several behaviors that may occur during the marriage such as: Infidelity (cheating); involuntary separation due to a crime committed by one spouse; abandonment; cruel treatment endangering the other spouse; behavior making the condition of the other spouse intolerable; and reckless spending of the income or destruction or concealment of assets (financial misconduct).

The marital misconduct many people want to know the impact of cheating. Infidelity during the marriage does not influence the outcome of child support, child custody, or equitable distribution (property division) decisions. However, this behavior can be considered in determining if either spouse owes the other alimony (spousal support payments). As a general rule, if the financially supporting spouse (the spouse who has the higher income and/or does most of the financial providing during the marriage) cheats on the non-supporting spouse, the court must order the cheating spouse to pay alimony. If the non-financially supporting spouse cheats on the supporting spouse before separation, the cheating party is no longer entitled to alimony payments. 

Just as important as infidelity is the financial misconduct of one spouse during the marriage. This may have occurred to you or someone you know as one spouse taking out credit in both names without the other’s knowledge or spending joint money for only their benefit. The non-participating spouse may become aware of this behavior during the marriage or the separation period. The legal impact of this behavior is less definite, but it can certainly have one.

“Financial misconduct” is when one spouse acts selfishly in a way that reduces the value of the marital estate available after the divorce. This behavior is most likely to be considered in equitable distribution and alimony proceedings because it changes the economy of the marriage. The equitable distribution statute in North Carolina creates a default 50/50 distribution of joint property unless one spouse gives evidence as to why the court should favor one party over the other. Of the things taken into consideration, acts during the marriage that led to the reduction in the value of marital assets are one. If your spouse reduced the value of your assets by committing financial misconduct and as a result, you believe 50/50 distribution is not fair, you may urge the court to consider evidence you have proving such actions. 

If you believe your spouse committed marital misconduct or if you committed marital misconduct against your spouse, you should consider speaking with an attorney about your specific situation and what your options are. Contact King Law at (888) 748-KING (5464) for a consultation. King Law is here to serve you and help navigate this journey you are on.

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