I know my spouse is cheating and I really don’t want to be the one who leaves, but if I do, will that hurt me later when filing separation papers?
Abandonment is one of 12 factors that the court looks at when determining equitable distribution. You could also have your spouse sign a “nonabandonment agreement” stating that by leaving you are not abandoning him/her. The weight given to each factor is up to the judge, and only you are really able to assess the situation and the need to leave before an agreement between the parties has been struck. This is also a good matter to discuss with an attorney before choosing to leave with no notice.
You can look at the entire list of factors here: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_50/GS_50-20.html