My husband cheated on me. Do I automatically qualify for a divorce in North Carolina?

Because North Carolina is a “no fault” divorce jurisdiction, marital fault (i.e., infidelity) does not have to be proven by one spouse in order to obtain a divorce from the other. Divorce in North Carolina may be based on only one of two grounds. Divorce based on 12 months of separation is typical, and in rare cases, divorce is based on the “incurable insanity” of one spouse.

But despite not being a grounds for divorce, adultery has other ramifications for North Carolina divorces. Specifically, if one spouse is having an extramarital affair, it can impact the post-divorce settlement. It can also lead to a civil lawsuit against the cheating spouse’s lover.

If you are an adulterous dependent spouse (as proven by your husband), the court will take this into account and it may mean you will be denied alimony. On the other hand, if your husband cheated on you (and you can prove it), it could mean that you receive a greater alimony payment. A judge will similarly take adultery into account when deciding child custody and could find that it is inappropriate for the child to live with the spouse who cheated (although this is uncommon).

As one of the most legally unforgiving states in terms of adultery, North Carolina also allows a spouse whose partner cheated on him or her to file a civil lawsuit against the spouse’s lover. Compensable damages for mental anguish, loss of support and similar types of pain and suffering may be awarded. Again, you must prove adultery on the part of your spouse in order to file this type of civil suit.

To summarize, as long as you and your spouse have been separated for at least one year and your paperwork is correctly processed through the judicial system, you may obtain a divorce for any reason. The impacts of adultery on a North Carolina marriage, however, are potentially far-reaching. If you suspect that an extramarital affair has occurred while you were still married, you should discuss your legal options with a Raleigh divorce attorney.