Adultery an issue if both spouses have similar income?


Well, I will have to come clean. I have had a one day affair, one visit, with my college sweetheart. We hadn’t spoken in 30 years and found each other on Facebook about 6 weeks ago…

I had been on the verge of leaving my wife of 15 years for some time now and this is enough to push me over the edge. I don’t know if anything will become of this new relationship but it has reminded me of what passion is like. :shock:

I have gone back and looked at the last 5 years tax returns. We both are self- employed business owners of separate businesses. Hers is actually doing much better than mine since the recession has hit us. She will probably make 50,000 more than me this year. Over the past 5 year period our incomes have averaged about the same amount. I am hoping to have an even split of assets. This would leave her with our house (free and clear) half of a beach house, some cash and her business. I hope to leave with our rental houses and a little cash and my business.
Will my infidelity have any effect on my desire to split everything 50:50?
Is there a chance of my having to pay alimony?
Is there any chance my college sweetheart would be sued in an AA case?
Will my continuing to see my college sweetheart after the separation have any effect on the proceedings if we end up in court?


This is not what you want to hear, but put this new relationship aside for a year until the divorce is finished. First, your current wife can sue the high school sweetheart for AA & CC and all contact between you two can help provide her with evidence. Second, if she finds out about the affair, don’t expect her to be cooperative when deciding division of assets/debts. Even if the STBX wants a divorce too, it’s damaging to find that one has so easily been replaced, and extreme anger is often the response. I know from personal experience.

Also, IMHO (& advice from someone who got divorced a long while ago and has more recently also dated a separated man)…if you’ve been in an unhappy marriage for some time, it’s really easy to see someone new in your life as a panacea. Right now, what you are living is an idealistic situation, not the reality. No bad moods, annoying habits, etc. You are pulling someone else into what is an exceptionally volatile and stressful situation based upon idealization. It is probably best to take a step back and work on yourself, trying to find out who you are now, post-marriage, before beginning a new relationship.

Ask yourself honestly “Given that there’s no guarantees with a new relationship, will I be OK with being alone 5-10 years down the road? Will I be happier being alone or sadder? Going to movies, eating out, quiet nights at home…will I be OK with all of this?” If your answer is ‘yes, I’d be much better off alone than with my wife,’ then you know you’re making the right decision. Make your decision as much as possible without the influence of the high school sweetheart. If you can, take a week vacation by yourself with no one else around somewhere to think through all of this without interruption from anyone who might exert an influence, especially the GF.

Sorry if this sounds preachy, but my time dating a separated (now divorced) man has been some of the most stressful in my life. We stayed together, but only because there was sufficient trust between us and our ability to communicate. But we didn’t have an affair. Since you did have an affair, the trust issue will become a big deal over time because the other woman may find it difficult to trust you around other women.

Also, in my case, even though the ex was the one who initiated the divorce, when she found out about me, she went ballistic and claimed that we had had an affair all along. It’s still a difficult situation with her, and she constantly puts the kids in the middle of all of it. So, just be aware of what you are getting into here.


I do appreciate your advice. My rational side tells me that you are right on. However., I’m not sure I can resist ruining my life…

My plan had always been to leave my wife soon. This new person seems more of a catalyst to get me moving. The fact that we lived together in college for 2 years and were split more by circumstances of jobs and family rather than our own doing makes it much harder to simply dismiss this as a passing fling. I would never have considered cheating on my wife with anyone else. I know it doesn’t excuse my actions but our former relationship has definitely made it much easier to fall into this situation. And yes, I am willing to take a chance on ending up alone. I would have been there soon enough anyway.

Anyway, my legal question remains.
Does the fact that my wife makes as much or more than me make a difference? She should not be able to qualify as a dependent spouse.


From what you’ve said, if she’s made more than you the last couple of years, then no, she’s not a dependent spouse.


Infidelity is not considered in property distribution in North Carolina, and normally only economic fault is considered (ie when one party has committed waste, and the other is seeking an unequal distribution of assets).
Even if you have committed adultery you will not pay alimony unless you are the supporting spouse, meaning that your wife would need to prove she is actually and substantially dependant on your income to maintain her standard of living. Since she earns more than you (and about equal in previous years) I do not see this as an alimony case.
Your wife could sue your new love interest for alienation of affection, and the continuing affair can be used as corroborative evidence in proof of an affair.