Does Marital Misconduct Impact Property Distribution?
Another common question we get about marital misconduct is whether it has an impact on property distribution (commonly referred to as equitable distribution).
Property distribution after a divorce is a completely separate issue from an alimony award. Marital property (such as real estate and personal property) and marital debts are divided equitably by a judge. For more information on property distribution click here!
Marital misconduct is generally not a factor that a court will consider during the property distribution process. There are several other factors that are considered, including the “catch all” factor which states the court may consider “any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.” While there are several factors, some of the more common factors that are considered are: each party’s financial situations, the duration of the marriage, and roles of the spouses during the marriage. The goal is for the property distribution to be fair, hence the term “equitable distribution.”
Marital misconduct is not mentioned in the property distribution statute; however, “marital misconduct during marriage which dissipates or reduces the value of marital assets for nonmarital purposes may properly be considered under G.S. 50-20(c)(12); marital fault or misconduct which does not adversely affect the value of marital assets is not a just and proper factor within the meaning of G.S. 50-20(c)(12). G.S. 50-20(c)(1)-(11), G.S. 50-16.2.” (see Smith v. Smith, 314 N.C. 80, 331 S.E.2d 682 (1985)).