You may have heard the term ‘marital misconduct’ used in divorce and alimony legal circles. “Marital misconduct is quite simply conduct that undermines the marital relationship in North Carolina,” says Charlotte family law and divorce attorney Thomas Bumgardner. “Marital misconduct becomes a factor in divorce when offender-spouse’s behavior forces the victim-spouse to assume extra burdens in the marriage. It’s used to fairly compensate the victim-spouse, which can be either the man or the woman.”
In North Carolina, a spouse may use marital misconduct as a reason for a legal separation and for post-separation support.
What Constitutes Marital Misconduct?
- Negative behavior toward a spouse. This can include throwing a spouse out of the home and preventing them from returning. “We’ve seen spouses change the locks on the home’s doors and that is seen as marital misconduct,” said Bumgardner.
- Treating a spouse cruelly. Virtually any indignity one spouse forces on the other spouse if the condition makes their condition intolerable and their life difficult.
- Refusing to pay for utilities. If the spouse earns enough money to pay for household utilities but refuses to do so, and the other spouse has to live in the household with no heat or light, then they have committed marital misconduct.
- Bad personal behavior. There are several types of personal behavior that are considered marital misconduct, even if these behaviors don’t involve the other spouse directly. “Examples of this behavior can include jailing of a spouse for theft, adultery or the use of drugs and alcohol that makes the other spouse’s condition intolerable,” added Bumgardner.
- Financial misconduct. A spouse who spends the couple’s money recklessly or wastefully, or destroys or hides assets is committing marital misconduct.
“In North Carolina, a divorcing spouse has the right to ask the judge or the jury to decide whether marital misconduct has occurred,” says Bumgardner. “If a spouse is found guilty, the judge considers the marital misconduct when deciding support awards to the other spouse.”
On the other hand, marital misconduct laws in North Carolina may apply to a financially dependent spouse and have their award reduced because of the misconduct.
Thomas Bumgardner can help you understand the laws of marital misconduct in North Carolina as well as helping you through family situations like divorce and separation. Please call us for a free consultation at 704-887-4981. We’re here to help you understand your rights.