When considering how to move forward with dissolving your marriage in North Carolina, it is key to know about all of your options. One such method that lies in between absolute divorce and separation is “Divorce from Bed and Board”.
In cases of absolute divorce where both parties agree to divorce, they will also undergo a 12-month separation period, then complete and file the paperwork necessary to dissolve the marriage. Of course, there may be additional factors and complexities, such as child custody or negotiating a settlement, but the general process of separation and filing is the same. No fault is needed and once all filing is complete, the couple is legally no longer married and free to go about their separate ways, including remarrying.
“Divorce from Bed and Board” is the other type of divorce in North Carolina, and while rare, it’s sometimes necessary. Our Raleigh divorce attorneys are breaking down what this method is and whether it’s applicable to your unique case.
Defining Divorce from Bed And Board
There are two key ways a divorce from bed and board differs from an absolute divorce:
- One party must have committed at least one of six factors that would make him or her at fault. Fault must be found on the part of one spouse.
- This is not a legal divorce in that while the parties are required to live separately, the marriage is not dissolved. You can not remarry after obtaining a divorce from bed and board.
Grounds for Divorce from Bed and Board in North Carolina
There are six faults that would make a couple eligible for this type of divorce.
The spouse filing for divorce from bed and board on grounds of abandonment must show proof of four factors.
The offending spouse:
- Intentionally stopped living in the marital home or moved to a separate part of the home, OR committed “constructive abandonment,” meaning their behavior drove the complaining spouse to leave;
- Is not resuming cohabitation;
The accusing spouse:
- Did not consent to separation;
- Did not provoke the accused spouse’s leaving (such as by committing abuse, adultery, or locking them out);
Maliciously Turning Out of Doors
Basically, the spouse filing for divorce has been evicted from their home by the accused spouse. Examples include the accused spouse throwing their belongings out, changing the locks, or forcing them to leave.
Endangering Life Through Cruel and Barbarous Treatment
While this was originally written in regard to physical abuse, the courts have amended the definition of cruel and barbarous treatment to include emotional and mental abuse. Physical injury, manipulation, withholding food, threats – all of these could be examples of cruel and barbarous treatment.
A spouse filing based on grounds of indignity must show that their partner’s behavior intended to humiliate, degrade, or break down self-respect over the course of several incidents in order to show a continued pattern of behavior. It means the accused spouse was rendering the aggrieved spouse’s living conditions “intolerable and life burdensome” with intention and without provocation.
This is a broad charge and can include insults and continued criticism, harassment, inappropriate sexual conduct (withholding sexual contact or demanding it, addiction to pornography, etc), unfounded accusation of behavior, or causing the aggrieved spouse to go without necessities by withholding support or finances.
Excessive Use of Drugs and Alcohol
If the spouse bringing the case shows their partner used drugs and alcohol to an excessive degree, thus making their life burdensome, the court will grant divorce from bed and board on this ground.
Marital infidelity is another fault that would allow the courts to grant a divorce from bed and board. Infidelity can also be a form of cruelty and indignity.
If the accused spouse disagrees with these claims and does not want an absolute divorce, they can defend themselves or have legal counsel defend them. Often, they have to show the accusing spouse is acting with:
- Collusion: Intentional misleading or lying to gain divorce from bed and board;
- Connivance: The spouse seeking divorce is intentionally causing or encouraging the accused spouse’s behavior;
- Condonation: The spouse seeking divorce has already known and forgiven the behavior and restored marital accord and the accused spouse has evidence of this. This is often when the complaining spouse files based on adultery, but knew of the adultery for a long period of time, lived with the spouse harmoniously and did not file for action for an extended period.
- Recrimination: The spouse seeking divorce is also guilty of one of the grounds for divorce from bed and board.
What Does This Mean Moving Forward?
A divorce from bed and board does not dissolve the marriage itself, though the couple will no longer live together. If the spouse who filed for divorce is the sole owner of the home, the court can evict the other party, otherwise, the court can award the house to the aggrieved spouse. Also, the court can award the aggrieved spouse alimony, child support, custody, and other matters of property division.
While neither spouse can remarry, the spouse who was accused and found to have committed misconduct must forfeit many of the legal rights of marriage, particularly those related to cohabitation and their spouse’s estate.
Reconciling a Decree of Divorce from Bed and Board
If, after obtaining a divorce from bed and board, the two parties begin living together again or integrating their lives in other ways, such as romantically or financially, are considered to have reconciled. This terminates the decree of divorce from bed and board and all rights are restored. If either party seeks to separate again, a new divorce from bed and board must be gained or an absolute divorce must be filed.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Raleigh Divorce Attorneys
If you feel a divorce from bed and board is the only solution to move forward, or if you need representation to defend claims to obtain this type of divorce, schedule a consultation with our Raleigh family law firm. We put our dedication and experience to work for you to help you meet your goals and move forward with confidence and dignity. Call today at (919) 296-1906 or fill out our form below to get started.
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