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What is marital fault and how does it apply to an alimony claim?

Although an alimony claimant is no longer required to prove the other spouse is at fault in order to be entitled to postseparation support or alimony, the new alimony statute still retains the concept of marital fault and still permits a judge to consider evidence of fault in fixing the amount of alimony to be awarded, if any. Marital fault in North Carolina is enumerated in the new statute as follows: 1. Illicit sexual behavior (meaning “acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), voluntarily engage in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse”). 2. Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought. 3. Abandonment. 4. Malicious turning out of doors. 5. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse. 6. Such indignities as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. 7. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion or concealment of assets. 8. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. 9. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one’s means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. The method for proving marital fault varies according to the fault. The following discussion is based entirely on the law as it had developed prior to the enactment of the new alimony statute, as the 1995 statute is too new to have been interpreted as yet in North Carolina appellate cases.

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