Is Adultery Illegal in North Carolina?

Unfortunately, adultery is more common than ever before in Charlotte. Despite the fact that spouses exchange marital vows and promise to be faithful to one another, marriages do not always go according to plan. Whether you have committed adultery or your spouse has been unfaithful, this can be an incredibly painful time. Aside from the feelings of regret and sorrow, you may be wondering whether you will face legal consequences for adultery in North Carolina.

Adultery laws in North Carolina are quite unique when compared to other states across the nation. While some people may view these laws as antiquated, they do serve a purpose in the legal system of North Carolina. While the criminal penalties of adultery are certainly nothing to brush off, this crime can also impact other aspects of your life, such as your divorce proceedings.

Is Adultery a Crime?

In North Carolina, Adultery is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. The exact wording of the law is as follows:

  • “If any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”
What is the Punishment for Adultery?

Under North Carolina law, the potential punishments for a Class 2 misdemeanor include the following:

  • Between one and 60 days of community punishment
  • Maximum jail time of 60 days in jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000
Adultery’s Impact on Divorce

While it is true that adultery may result in criminal charges, you are unlikely to face such charges from a prosecutor. However, this does not mean that you will be free from legal consequences. A much more likely scenario involves your divorce, and adultery can impact marital separation in a number of different ways.

First of all, adultery can impact alimony. If you can prove that your spouse committed adultery, you may not have to pay alimony. On the other hand, you may be denied alimony if you have committed adultery. If you are the paying spouse, you automatically have to pay alimony if you have committed adultery. Finally, if both spouses have committed adultery, the judge will use their discretion when awarding alimony.

If you can prove that your spouse was adulterous, their ability to act as a responsible parent may also be called into question. This can impact child custody proceedings. Adultery may also impact distribution of assets, but only if one spouse can prove that the illicit affair somehow impacted their financial situation.

Adultery can also provide the basis for lawsuits. An individual may be allowed to sue the person who had an affair with their spouse for damages. The lawsuit may be filed on the grounds of criminal conversation and alienation of affection. There have been many examples of this in the past, and some spouses have received six-figure sums in damages as a result of these so-called “heart balm torts.” This definitely something to keep in mind, whether you have committed adultery or you have been the victim of this offense.

Adultery is Grounds for a Divorce From Room and Board

Adultery may also provide the grounds for a divorce from room and board. Although this type of divorce is not the same as an absolute divorce, arguably it can eject one spouse from the marital household. In addition, it can enable you to leave the marital household without being accused of abandonment. This may be helpful if your spouse has committed adultery and you can no longer face living under the same roof as them. With all that being said, it is important to note that a divorce from room and board does not actually dissolve the marriage, and you will need to obtain an absolute divorce to remarry in the future.

Reconciliation and Adultery

Reconciliation is a very important concept in the legal context of a divorce. If one spouse can prove that reconciliation has occurred, then the court will assume that both parties have forgiven each other. This means that your spouse’s adulterous acts may no longer play a role in determining things like alimony, child support, child custody, and heart balm torts. This is called condonation.

Reconciliation occurs when spouses start living together once again under the same roof. Note that reconciliation occurs even if you are living in the same household but in separate bedrooms. However, reconciliation must continue over a long period of time to be legitimate. In other words, brief intimate encounters without long-term cohabitation are not enough to constitute reconciliation.

Getting Legal Help

Whether you have committed adultery or you have been the victim of this crime, we are here to help. Reach out to Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at 704-370-2828 and schedule a consultation with one of our offices located across the Charlotte region with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.