Should I Choose an Absolute Divorce or a Divorce From Bed and Board in North Carolina?

If you wish to separate from your spouse in North Carolina, one of the first decisions you will need to make is whether to obtain an absolute divorce or a divorce from bed and board. While it might be tempting to simply choose one option at random and “get it over with,” it is important that you take your time with this decision. It is true that you can simply head down to the local County Clerk of Superior Court and file your divorce papers, but sometimes the quickest option is not always the best one.

In order to make sure you are proceeding in the most efficient and logical way possible, it is best to consult with a legal professional who can help you with virtually all aspects of your divorce. Along with helping you file divorce papers and navigate this legal process, a qualified divorce attorney can also help you decide whether to obtain an absolute divorce or a divorce from bed and board.

What Is an Absolute Divorce?

An absolute divorce is considered a “no-fault” divorce, which means that neither spouse needs to have committed any offense in order for the divorce to be granted. All you need to do is inform the court that you wish to end the marriage, as the relationship has fallen apart. In addition, an absolute divorce is the only type of divorce in North Carolina that can dissolve the marriage. This means that you will need to obtain an absolute divorce if you want to remarry.

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What Is a Divorce From Bed and Board?

A divorce from bed and board is a court-ordered decree of separation. After this type of divorce has been granted, one spouse will typically be ejected from the marital home. In other cases, one spouse may obtain a divorce from bed and board so that they can leave the marital home without being accused of abandonment. It is important to understand that a divorce from bed and board is fault-based, which means it will only be granted on specific grounds. In addition, you may not remarry after obtaining this type of divorce.

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Which Type of Divorce Is Easier to Obtain?

If you want to finalize your divorce as quickly and easily as possible, you might be asking yourself which type of divorce represents the more convenient option. Unfortunately, the answer is not all that straightforward. The “easiest” type of divorce in North Carolina generally depends on your unique situation and your priorities.

Many might assume that an absolute divorce is more difficult and less convenient because of the one-year waiting period. Spouses who file their divorce papers must wait for one year before they can finalize their separation and completely dissolve the marriage. This one-year wait period represents a source of frustration for many spouses, especially since other states allow couples to finish up their divorces in a matter of weeks. In addition, spouses must consent to an absolute divorce.

On the other hand, obtaining a divorce from bed and board is also not an easy process. Although it is true that this type of divorce may be granted quickly by the courts and that spouses need not (and cannot) consent, you also need to actually prove that you have a legitimate reason for pursuing this option. There are six possible reasons that a divorce from bed and board may be granted by North Carolina courts:

  1. Abandonment: This means that your spouse has left the “marital residence” without any intention of actually returning. In order for a divorce from bed and board to be granted on the grounds of abandonment, your spouse’s departure needs to have happened without your consent and without any legal justification or excuse.
  2. Malicious Turning Out of Doors: Although this is similar to abandonment, there are a few key differences. In this situation, one spouse is wrongfully evicting another spouse without any real reason. Essentially, this is the opposite of abandonment.
  3. Cruel or Barbarous Treatment: Both physical and mental cruelty committed by a spouse can provide grounds for a divorce from bed and board. In the eyes of North Carolina laws, it is important that these acts of cruelty are unprovoked.
  4. Personal Indignities: When one spouse humiliates or degrades the other, there may be grounds for a divorce from bed and board. These humiliating acts must make the victim's living conditions intolerable and distressing.
  5. Alcohol or Drug Abuse: If one spouse has substance abuse issues, this may also provide grounds for a divorce from bed and board. According to North Carolina state law, consumption of drugs and alcohol needs to be frequent and you must play no part in condoning or inducing your spouse’s substance use.
  6. Adultery: If your spouse has been unfaithful, you can immediately file for a divorce from bed and board. This type of behavior may also fall under the category of “personal indignities.”

As you can see, a divorce from bed and board may not be easy to obtain if you cannot prove that your spouse has engaged in any of the behavior listed above.

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Getting Legal Help

We understand that getting your divorce finalized is a top priority. Reach out to Arnold & Smith, PLLC at one of our three offices, and we will help you make the right decision so that you can move on with your life. Give us a call at 704-370-2828 to schedule a consultation.