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Summary Judgment and Alimony Claims

WATSON V. WATSON, 2023-NCCOA-______ (2023) 

  1. Facts: Husband and Wife married in 2004. They separated, and in 2020 Wife filed a complaint for alimony and other relief. In 2021, the trial court granted a summary judgment, denying alimony. Husband argued that Wife’s illicit sexual behavior barred her claim to alimony. At the summary judgment hearing, Husband produced affidavits from Wife’s paramours each accounting for affairs Wife had while married. Wife admitted to one of the affairs as well. Wife complained that Husband was also adulterous and engaged in affairs during the marriage. Trial court granted Husband’s summary judgment motion. Wife moved under Rule 60 but was also denied.  


  1. Issue:  Did the trial court err in granting Husband’s summary judgment motion? 


  1. Holding: Yes. 


  1. Rationale:  Summary judgment would have been appropriate, unless Wife could show that either Husband consented to the affair or Husband also engaged in an affair. In her complaint, which was verified and thus an affidavit, she alleged that Husband was adulterous and engaged in an affair during the parties’ marriage. She also argued that discovery was incomplete at the time of the summary judgment hearing, and Wife had filed a motion to compel discovery when Husband did not timely respond. That discovery could have included evidence of Husband’s affair, such as text and Facebook messages. Since there was a genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment was improper at this point, and the trial court erred in granting Husband’s motion to bar Wife’s claim for alimony.