A divorce from bed and board is a separation option available in North Carolina in situations involving abuse, adultery, or mistreatment. It’s not a divorce in the true sense of the word – it’s a legal, court-ordered separation during which the spouses remain married but live separate and apart.
What Is the Difference Between Absolute Divorce and Divorce from Bed and Board?
Usually, divorces in North Carolina happen after a separation period during which the spouses have lived separate and apart for one year and a day. For an absolute divorce, there is no requirement that either spouse show fault (such as adultery or mistreatment). The court can grant the divorce as long as the spouses can show that they are married and have met the separation requirement. In some cases, the court also can grant a divorce in North Carolina if one of the spouses is diagnosed with incurable insanity. Consult a North Carolina divorce lawyer to learn more about ways to divorce depending on your situation.
In contrast, a divorce from bed and board is not a true “divorce”. It does not end a legal marriage; instead, it is a court-ordered separation. Spouses who receive a divorce from bed and board can live separate and apart while remaining legally married.
Who Can Receive a Divorce from Bed and Board?
A divorce from bed and board is available only in certain limited circumstances. The court can grant this type of separation if:
- A spouse excessively uses alcohol or drugs so as to “render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome”
- A spouse commits adultery
- A spouse abandons his or her family
- A spouse maliciously forces the other spouse to leave their residence
- A spouse endangers the other spouse’s life by “cruel and barbarous treatment”
- A spouse so mistreats the other spouse so as to render his or her “condition intolerable and life burdensome”
In other words, the court can decide to grant a divorce from room and board if one spouse has an alcohol or drug problem, commits adultery, or badly mistreats the other spouse. Due to these issues, spouses may have a very hard time living together or communicating while living in the same residence.
Does a Divorce from Bed and Board Affect Spousal Rights?
A divorce from bed and board substantially affects spousal rights, especially those of the spouse at fault. Even though it does not dissolve the marriage, it does change the rights that the spouses have as to each other. For example, the spouse who is found at fault loses the ability to live with the other spouse. The spouses must live in separate residences as a result of the separation. In addition, the spouse at fault loses the right to inherit their spouse’s property if the spouse dies without a will.
Moreover, divorces from bed and board may affect issues of spousal support, child custody and support, and property division. Because a divorce from bed and board order is based on the fault of one spouse, it could have an impact on how the court awards support, custody, and division of property. Importantly, couples who receive divorces from bed and board can still sign separation agreements to resolve some of these issues.
What If a Couple Reconciles After a Divorce from Bed and Board?
Reconciliation after a divorce from bed and board does affect spousal rights. If spouses reconcile after the separation is ordered, the spouse at fault will regain his or her lost spousal rights described above. After reconciling, if the spouses decide to separate again, the spouses will need to either have a one-year separation or seek another divorce from bed and board. In addition, spouses who receive a divorce from bed and board still must have a one-year separation before they can get legally divorced. If you want to know more about divorces from bed and board, be sure to seek the help of a North Carolina divorce lawyer.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering ending your marriage, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your 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 visit us at our website.