Divorce from Bed and Board in North Carolina

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Making a decision to separate or divorce is incredibly difficult. Sometimes it happens quickly and abruptly, while other times the breakdown is a culmination of years of discord. If you are seeking a separation or divorce, you should know that North Carolina offers several legal options to choose from. One of these is a divorce from bed and board.

What is a Divorce from Bed and Board?

A divorce from bed and board is a legal action between married couples. Contrary to what it sounds like, a divorce from bed and board is NOT a divorce. Instead, it is a legal separation that alters a couple’s marriage status. Unfortunately, this type of separation does not arise from amicable circumstances. Instead, it is a “fault-based” legal separation in which one spouse has engaged in conduct that harmed the other spouse.

What Misconduct Must Be Demonstrated?

Only a spouse who has been harmed by the other spouse may file a petition for divorce from bed and board. It cannot be entered into by agreement. In the petition, the injured spouse must plead from a specific list of misconduct created by the North Carolina legislature. This includes that:

  • The spouse has abandoned his or her family.
  • The spouse has “Maliciously turn[ed] the other out of doors.” This means that one spouse has ejected the other spouse from the marital home.
  • The spouse engaged in “cruel or barbarous treatment [that] endangers the life of the other”. This includes domestic violence or physical abuse. Note that a protective order is also an appropriate option.
  • The spouse “Offers such indignities” “to render [the other spouse’s] condition intolerable and life burdensome.” This may include harassment, control, or emotional abuse.
  • The spouse has developed a drug or alcohol problem such that they make “the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome.” Or,
  • The spouse commits adultery.

Why Not Just Get Divorced?

A divorce from bed and board generally occurs when the injured spouse wishes to separate, but the offending spouse refuses. When your spouse is engaging in the misconduct listed above, you may need quick relief. In order to get an absolute divorce, there is a one-year and a day waiting period between the separation and when you can file for divorce. A divorce from bed and board has no waiting period and relieves you of the duty to live in the same home. Further, the court can order much needed temporary relief, such as child support, alimony payments, and the sole right to live in the marital home with the children.

If your spouse’s conduct and decisions are actively harming you, contact us. New Direction Family Law can help you weigh your options, and aggressively advocate to protect your legal rights. For more than eighteen years, we have assisted clients in North Carolina seeking separations, divorces, and child custody. Call us today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us online at our website.