North Carolina is a no-fault state for divorce. In North Carolina, parties typically have to be separated and living apart for at least one year in order to obtain a divorce. One facet of obtaining a divorce is a divorce from bed and board. Despite the confusing name, a divorce from bed and board is not a divorce. Instead, a divorce from bed and board is a court-ordered separation.
Divorce from bed and board does not have the same legal consequences as an absolute divorce. Legally speaking, a divorce from bed and board does not actually end the marriage between the two parties. Instead, it is a more limited form of divorce provided for by North Carolina statute.
North Carolina General Statute §50-7 provides several grounds for divorce from bed and board.
The statute states: “The court may grant divorces from bed and board on application of the party injured, made as by law provided, in the following cases if either party:
- Abandons his or her family.
- Maliciously turns the others out of doors.
- By cruel or barbarous treatment endangers the life of the other. In addition, the court may grant the victim of such treatment the remedies available under G.S. 50B-1, et seq.
- Offers such indignities to the person of the other as to render his or her condition intolerable and life burdensome.
- Becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome.
- Commits adultery.
As you can see, divorce from bed and board is a fault-based action. The spouse seeking the divorce from bed and board must prove that the other spouse has done one of the above six grounds in order for the court to grant a divorce from bed and board. Thus, if the spouse cannot prove the other spouse’s fault, the court will not grant the divorce from bed and board. One of the six grounds listed above must be present. To defeat a spouse’s claim to divorce from bed and board, an accused spouse can show that the complaining spouse’s evidence is false. Alternatively, the accused spouse can rely on one of the four following defenses: collusion, connivance, condonation, or recrimination.
Collusion is a defense used where one spouse has conspired with the other spouse to claim evidence so a divorce can be granted.
Connivance is when a complaining spouse has taken action to entrap the accused spouse in marital misconduct.
Condonation is where the complaining spouse has expressed or shown forgiveness of the marital misconduct.
Recrimination is where an accused spouse works to prove the complaining spouse is equally guilty of marital misconduct. The accused spouse must be able to show that their actions did not lead to the complaining spouse.
Contact Hatcher Law Group to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand your rights and options moving forward.