“Should I get a divorce?” is a question I receive a lot, and it’s a difficult one to answer. There are many perspectives to consider when thinking about this topic. What is best for you legally, emotionally, religiously, economically? Do these different areas conflict with one another? This article is not here to tackle the religious, emotional, or economic reasons why you should or should not get a divorce. Those are for you and your family to consider. However, there are some things to think about when trying to determine what is right for your potential court case.
Forgiveness of Misconduct
Misconduct has a lot of different definitions in the law. Marital Misconduct is something like physical abuse or when one spouse has sexual intercourse with another person outside of the marriage and without consent. That type of misconduct can be used as a defense against alimony claims. Then there is misconduct in the general sense, like a parent who neglects their children, drinks around them, or frequently leaves them stranded at daycare.
In either of these instances if you choose to “forgive” or “accept” these behaviors after they occur it can make them irrelevant or less impactful to the court. I’ve frequently seen judges say “Well you can’t expect me to believe you are concerned about your spouse’s drinking around the children when you let it occur for several years without doing anything about it”. Also, as a matter of law, by not ending the relationship after you discover your spouse was cheating on you it can be determined by the court that you “condoned” the action, or forgave them. If you stay together for several months and then choose to end the relationship they might still qualify for Alimony whereas they would have been barred from receiving it before. That could result in a lifetime of payments even when you have a just cause for wanting to be divorced. It’s important to think about those issues when answering the “Should I get a divorce” question.
The Time and Money Factor
Even in the speediest counties, it can take over a month, usually two or three, before you can get into court to receive temporary child support or post-separation support — which is temporary alimony. Remember, that time frame doesn’t start counting down until after you’ve hired an attorney and those documents have been filed, which also takes time. This means that you need to have a financial plan for how you will afford to hire an attorney, how you will support yourself and your children, and what resources you will need before you move out. In addition, remember that the entire process can take several years to complete if your spouse contests everything. That can take an emotional strain on you as well. Make sure you are prepared to handle that burden before taking action.
The 10 Year Magic Number
Alimony is something everyone should be thinking about when asking if the “should I get a divorce” question. In North Carolina, there is a magic number when it comes to alimony — 10 years. Marriages that have lasted less 10 years usually result in alimony awards of half the life of the marriage. So, an eight-year marriage would result in a four-year award. The most they are normally awarded would be the full life of the marriage. However, once you go beyond 10 years the Court can start to consider lifetime alimony. This award could last for as long as your spouse remains alive, lives separately from another romantic partner, and you remain able to pay. This is something everyone needs to consider if they are having marital troubles in years seven, eight, and nine.
Overall, there is no right answer to the question of “Should I get a divorce”. These are just some legal pieces to consider in the very complicated and emotional puzzle. If you are confused or unsure about how any of these pieces might affect your case, make sure to schedule a consultation with our office and let one of our licensed attorneys talk about it with you.