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Statutory Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

There are two types of divorce in the state of North Carolina: absolute divorce, and divorce from bed and board. Absolute divorce is the most popular and the most well-known type of divorce, where a North Carolina judge files a written court order granting a divorce to permanently end a couple’s marriage, as well as all marital obligations and duties. This type of divorce is accompanied by additional court orders outlining the distribution of marital property, child custody, child support, and alimony. On the other hand, divorce from bed and board, despite the name, is not an official divorce. Instead, it is a court decree that a couple is legally separated, and while the couple no longer lives together, they are not legally able to remarry until they obtain an absolute Divorce. Under the intended and legal terms of a marriage, the contract only expires when one spouse dies. However, you can end your marriage early by filing for divorce based on statutory grounds.

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

North Carolina is a hybrid state, meaning that while there are circumstances where judges can take into consideration certain acts of marital misconduct against a spouse in determining fault, you can still seek a no-fault divorce based on the following reasons:

  • Incurable Insanity: An absolute divorce may be granted if a married couple lives separate and apart for at least three consecutive years due to one spouse’s mental illness or incurable insanity. This usually occurs when the mentally ill spouse requires medical care outside of the home, thereby preventing the couple from living together. To prove this, you’ll need expert testimony from at least two doctors, one of which must be a psychiatrist.
  • Separated for One Year: If a couple has lived apart for at least one consecutive year and one of the spouses has been a resident of North Carolina for the past six consecutive months, they can be granted a no-fault absolute divorce. Because North Carolina does not recognize separation for simply living in or sleeping in different parts of the same home, the parties involved must actually live separately. It is permissible to engage in isolated moments of sexual relations or activities, but you are not allowed to resume any activity that would give an image of a normal marriage.

Grounds for Divorce from Bed and Board

This variation of fault-based divorce examines the actions of one party. Generally, someone would apply for this type of divorce if they are afraid of being accused of abandonment and need a court order to stop living with their spouse. The grounds for divorce from bed and board are fault-based. These include the following:

  • Abandonment or Turning Out – More commonly known as desertion, this is when one spouse abandons the family or leaves without warning, reason, or the consent of the other spouse. It can also occur when one spouse maliciously forces the other spouse to leave.
  • Cruel or Barbarous Treatment – When one spouse acts in a way that endangers the life of the other spouse, the victimized spouse may be granted a divorce from bed and board. In most cases, this involves physical violence, but violence is not required to obtain a divorce on these grounds.
  • Indignities – This term covers a wide range of actions and is often deemed the “catch-all” ground. In general, indignities are any actions that make life intolerable or burdensome for one spouse, including repeated verbal abuse, false accusations of adultery, or other acts that humiliate the spouse.
  • Drug Use – When one party’s drug or alcohol use is so excessive it makes living in the same house as them unsafe or intolerable, the other spouse may request a divorce from bed and board.
  • Adultery – When one spouse commits adultery, the other may be granted a divorce from bed and board. However, the spouse who files for divorce will have to be able to prove that the adultery occurred. This ground may not be available for couples with particular arrangements, such as open relationships.

When one of these situations arises, the two parties will take their case to court, where the injured spouse must prove to a judge that the at-fault spouse committed marital misconduct without any provocation. After hearing the arguments, the judge will then issue their judgment. If divorce from bed and board is granted, the parties are no longer required to live together, but they may not remarry. If they wish to remarry, they must obtain an absolute divorce.

Contact Us

Going through divorce proceedings can be a stressful and devastating time in your life. Along with the events that led to this decision, the changes in your life can be emotionally trying. You need a skilled and experienced attorney on your side to answer your questions and handle the day-to-day process so you can focus on yourself and your future. To learn more about your legal rights and options for absolute divorce or divorce from bed and board, get in touch with a Raleigh divorce attorney at Marshall & Taylor PLLC. By calling us today at 919-833-1040 or filling out an online form, you can take the first step in securing your future and protecting your assets.


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