Adultery and Family Law

Adultery may have an impact on certain family law issues and it has zero impact on others. This blog discusses adultery in the family law context and answers some of the most frequently asked family law questions regarding adultery in North Carolina.

Can I sue my spouse’s “mistress”?

Yes. North Carolina is one of the last remaining states to allow for such causes of actions. The most common of these actions are alienation of affection and criminal conversation. Both causes of action involve suing the third-party paramour who inserted themselves into the marriage.

Can I sue my spouse for adultery?

No. However, there may be some alimony implications. See below.


Adultery may impact alimony, assuming that an alimony complaint has been timely filed. If the supporting spouse committed adultery and the dependent spouse did not, the court MUST award alimony. However, this amount could be a nominal amount, such as $1.00 per month. If the dependent spouse committed adultery and the supporting spouse did not, the judge may NOT award the dependent spouse alimony. If both spouses committed adultery, whether or not to award alimony is up to the judge’s discretion.

Relationships after Separation

During the period of separation, each party to the ending marriage may freely engage in whatever romantic relationships they wish to engage in. There will be no legal ramifications for this.

Adultery and Divorce

North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. Other than incurable insanity, the only the ground for divorce is a one-year separation. An allegation of adultery or other wrongdoing is neither required nor will it expedite a divorce.

Adultery and Legal Separation

Adultery can be grounds for a judge to grant a legal separation (divorce from bed and board). A legal separation is not a divorce. Further, a legal separation is not required in order to obtain a divorce.

Adultery and Criminal Law

Technically, adultery is still illegal in North Carolina. However, it is not typically charged or prosecuted. Further, North Carolina’s adultery law would likely be struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court if a person was prosecuted and the issue was appealed up to the higher courts.

Adultery and Child Custody and Child Support

Adultery by itself does not impact child custody because North Carolina uses a best interest of the child standard in determining child custody arrangements.

Adultery also has no impact on child support.

If you are in need of a family law attorney, contact us to set up a consultation with a family law attorney. We practice family law in Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding areas.

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