Learning that your spouse had an affair can feel like the world has turned against you. Fear about your future can be overwhelming, especially if you have children. It’s understandable to feel completely lost about the next steps you should take. Here is what to know for the best outcome through this difficult and emotional situation.
What Happens After an Affair
There are multiple approaches you can follow once you discover your spouse had an affair. It’s possible you choose to forgive your spouse and stay together, perhaps seeking marital counseling to heal. If you don’t want to stay married, you can pursue legal separation. It’s best to contact an experienced family law attorney to assist you through the process. The separation may lead to reconciliation or to divorce proceedings.
You can initiate the separation immediately, (living separate and apart for a full year), which can lead to divorce. You may need to take additional legal recourse against your spouse besides divorce, such as child custody proceedings or even legal actions against the person with whom your spouse had an affair.
Alternative Solutions for Separation and Divorce
If you and your spouse are on good terms despite the affair, you may want to pursue alternative options for separation and divorce besides going to court. For example, you might decide to use the collaborative divorce process. This involves productive, solution-driven conferences between you and your spouse with attorneys trained in collaborative law. You exchange needed information and work out an agreement together, instead of allowing a judge to decide your fate.
Mediation vs. Arbitration
Other alternative options include mediation and arbitration. Both involve more informal resolutions of your disputes over property division, spousal support, child support and more.
In mediation, you work with a neutral mediator in conference rooms, exchanging information to try to reach an agreement. Its goal is to help couples settle their issues without long and expensive legal battles. Mediation usually occurs in a mediator’s office or even online. The setting is more relaxed and non-confrontational. A couple can begin divorce mediation by simply hiring a mediator, as a court filing is not required.
Mediators don’t decide the outcome of the divorce. Rather, they attempt to help the couple reach a compromise and then typically create a marital settlement agreement. Once the couple reaches this agreement, they have nearly finalized what’s become an uncontested divorce.
In arbitration, you present information to a neutral arbitrator during an informal hearing. Unlike mediation, the arbitrator makes a decision about the issues you raise. The actual arbitration hearings are limited to one hour, which means that each side has up to 30 minutes to testify and present witnesses and evidence.
The arbitration hearing may last longer if the arbitrator determines that more time is needed to ensure fairness and justice to the both parties. Arbitration is a viable option to save you money and headaches compared to the traditional court process.
How To Handle Difficult, Adversarial Divorces
Not all divorcing spouses are on good terms with the other. If you and your spouse are at odds because of the affair or other marital problems, you may anticipate an adversarial divorce. Disagreements over child custody or property division could mean going to court. You will definitely need a qualified divorce attorney on your side.
Legal Claims Against Spouse
With an attorney working for you, they can advise you about your options for legal relief due to your spouse’s affair. In North Carolina, wronged spouses can pursue legal claims of criminal conversation or alienation of affection.
Criminal conversation is a claim against a non-spouse for having sexual intercourse with a married person without the consent of their spouse. Alienation of affection is based on wrongful acts which deprive a married person of the affection of their spouse. It’s very important that you consult with your lawyer about the legal requirements for making these claims.
In addition, you or your children may face possible harm from your spouse during your separation. In North Carolina, you must live separately and apart for a year before you can file for divorce. During that time, your spouse could threaten you, violate custody agreements, or misbehave. You can be entitled to legal options for relief during this time. These could include restraining orders against your spouse or the person they had an affair with, modifications to custody agreements, and more. Remember, your lawyer is the best resource for information when determining how you should legally proceed.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are battling a tough situation in your marriage because of an affair, the team at New Direction Family Law is ready to answer your questions and provide assistance. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals about family law matters.
We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard to help you reach the best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation or send us a message today.