Charlotte Divorce Lawyer Explains NC Marital Misconduct Laws

Law Office of Thomas D. Bumgardner, PLLC

Marital misconduct is often the cause of divorce. The effects of these actions can have long-term financial consequences. Someone who has committed marital misconduct according to North Carolina state law will receive a much less favorable judgment during the post-separation support proceedings.

“In many divorce cases, one or both sides feel that the other spouse has committed marital misconduct,” said Thomas D. Bumgardner, Charlotte divorce lawyer. “But, in legal terms, they have not. Marital misconduct is reserved for those who have committed adultery or have demonstrated serious, unacceptable behavior that burdens the spouse and forces them to take on extra responsibility.”

So what exactly qualifies as marital misconduct? This week’s blog explains the factors that determine this judgment and its effects on post-separation judgments.

The Acts Must Precede the Separation

North Carolina law mandates that at least a year of separation must occur before a divorce is granted. Marital misconduct must have occurred before the separation in order for it to be considered in the final alimony decision. Acts committed after a married couple has separated are mostly irrelevant. However, these acts can be used to corroborate evidence in order to show a pattern of these behaviors.


Adultery, engaging in sexual acts with someone other than their married partner, is the most commonly committed act of marital misconduct. In order for a court to place the burden of committing marital misconduct on one spouse, the marriage must not continue after the adulterous act was discovered. A continuation of the marriage without separation implies forgiveness has been given. If both partners have committed adultery, the court will not place a label of marital misconduct on either.

Behaviors Toward a Spouse

These behaviors can be physical or mental in nature. For example, if one spouse kicks the other out of the house and doesn’t allow them to return by changing the locks, this is considered an act of marital misconduct. An example of mental marital misconduct is if one spouse threatens the other and it causes the person to fear for their life.

Personal Behavior Affecting a Spouse 

Personal behavior that does not directly involve the offending person’s spouse can be used as evidence of misconduct. For example, drug addiction and alcoholism can lead to behavior that burdens the spouse and makes married life intolerable. Often times these actions lead to financial misconduct, which is easier to prove.

Financial Misconduct 

A spouse who is reckless with finances without the other spouse’s knowledge is guilty of marital misconduct. For example, someone who has maxed out credit cards to buy unnecessary items without the other spouse knowing has committed misconduct. A person is also guilty if they try to hide assets or sell them without the other spouse knowing before getting a separation.

The Effects of Marital Misconduct on Post-Separation Support

If a judge finds one partner to have committed marital misconduct, it greatly effects the ruling in post-separation proceedings. If the primary-support giver (the one who provides the majority of financial support) commits marital misconduct, the judge must award the other partner alimony. Conversely, if the dependent spouse (the one receiving the majority of financial support) is involved in marital misconduct, the judge must not award alimony.

Consult With Your Charlotte Divorce Lawyer

Proving or disproving marital misconduct can be a crucial factor in the quality of your post-married life. Thomas D. Bumgardner is a Charlotte divorce lawyer with years of experience practicing family law and protecting his client’s rights. To schedule a free consultation, please call (704) 870-4779.

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