Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina (2024)

Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina (2024)

Relationships are complicated but also full of happiness. Although they can take a lot of work, no one enters into a relationship with the expectation that it will end years later. However, many couples find themselves facing complications, leaving them to wonder if their marriage qualifies for divorce in North Carolina. There are two types of divorce that are granted in North Carolina. The first is absolute divorce, in which a written order from a judge is signed granting an end to marital obligations between two spouses. The other type of divorce is known as divorce from bed and board, which is the term used to describe legal separation. In this situation, two spouses no longer live with each other but are not granted the legal right to remarry.

If you are considering a divorce or separation, it is important to explore the difference between both types of divorce in North Carolina and what grounds qualify for each.

No-Fault State

North Carolina is considered a no-fault state, meaning that there does not need to be evidence of one spouse committing marital misconduct against the other to file for divorce. That does not mean that misconduct will not factor into the final divorce agreement, as it can influence certain aspects such as spousal support, but it is not required for one spouse to begin the divorce process. When misconduct is a part of the final decree, it could include considerations around such things as abuse or infidelity. This is considered a hybrid circumstance.

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

If seeking a no-fault absolute divorce, there are two stipulations that must first be considered before the divorce can be initiated. The two stipulations are:

  • Incurable Insanity: If one spouse suffers from an incurable mental illness, and the couple has lived apart for three consecutive years because of that reason, they may be granted an absolute divorce. Generally, this occurs when the suffering spouse requires full-time medical support outside of the home, which requires them to live apart. In this instance, expert witnesses will need to be part of the process. One of these must be a psychiatrist.
  • Separated for a Year: If a couple has lived apart for one consecutive year or more, and one spouse has lived in North Carolina for at least six months, they could be granted an absolute divorce. This cannot just mean living in separate rooms within the same home. Rather, the couple must live in separate homes. Although the couple may engage in periodic sexual activities with each other during this time, they may not display marital tendencies.

Grounds for Divorce From Bed and Board

Bed and board divorces offer many other grounds for granting such a divorce. As mentioned, this is more like a formal separation, but it is still labeled as a divorce. In most cases, these types of divorce occur because of the actions of one spouse more than the other. For example, a spouse may fear being accused of abandonment if they are not granted a legal court order. Bed and board divorces are all fault-based. Examples include:

  • Turning Out/Abandonment: This is the term used when one spouse leaves the family without permission from the other spouse or forces the other spouse to leave.
  • Punishment Deemed Cruel or Barbarous: If one spouse creates a dangerous or unsafe condition for the other, they would have grounds to seek a bed and board divorce. While this treatment is not always physical, it often is.
  • Indignity: This is a generalized term used to describe the actions of one spouse that make it difficult or intolerable for the other spouse. This could be in the form of verbal abuse, humiliation, acts of adultery, and many others.
  • Usage of Drugs: This is when drug or alcohol use specifically drives living conditions to be deemed intolerable.
  • Infidelity: This is when one spouse commits adultery if the relationship is not considered to be an open relationship.

To be granted a bed and board divorce, the burden of proof rests in the hands of the spouse filing for divorce. As part of the evidence, it must be proven that the at-fault spouse committed marital misconduct on their own terms and was not provoked into the situation.

FAQs About Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

Do You Need Proof of Separation for Divorce in North Carolina?

Couples are required to prove that they lived separately for at least a year prior to divorcing. This could be proven through:

  • Leasing agreements
  • Utility bills
  • Bank statements
  • Voter registration cards
  • Driver’s license
  • Military orders

Each of these pieces of evidence can prove that residency changes occurred between the spouses.

Does North Carolina Require a 1-Year Separation Before Divorce?

For an absolute divorce, both spouses must be separated for at least one consecutive year, during which they live in two separate homes. They may not simply sleep in separate beds or in different rooms within the same home; they must live in separate residences. In addition, at least one spouse must live in North Carolina for at least six months.

Does North Carolina Recognize No-Fault Grounds for Divorce?

North Carolina is considered a no-fault state, which means that couples who wish to seek a divorce do not have to prove marital misconduct when doing so. While this could impact elements of the divorce settlement, such as spousal support, it is not necessary to prove that there was fault in the marriage to receive an absolute divorce.

Why Does North Carolina Make You Wait a Year to Divorce?

The first reason that North Carolina imposes a waiting period is to ensure that the couple does not change their minds and reconcile. The second reason is to ensure that the couple has not conceived a child before filing. Physical separation is also seen as a sign that both partners are committed to ending the marriage.

North Carolina Divorce Attorney

Grounds for divorce in North Carolina can be confusing, but understanding your options doesn’t have to be. Working with a Monroe, NC Divorce Attorney, like those at Lehnhardt Price Family Law, can help answer your questions so you can make an informed decision about the relationship between you and your spouse. Contact our offices today and let our attorneys help.