In North Carolina, you don’t have to completely dissolve your marriage to get away from an abusive, negligent, or otherwise “at-fault” spouse.
While getting a divorce from bed and board will leave your marital status intact, it will also give you the ability to keep your personal assets and property separate while co-parenting, working out your issues, or simply moving on with your life. In most cases, this type of divorce is best-suited to situations in which one partner is unwilling to accept a separation agreement.
However, the concept and the process of bed and board divorce can be confusing.
At Remington & Dixon, we want to make understanding the merits of and requirements for bed and board divorce easier. This way, you can make an informed decision about whether or not this process is right for you.
How Bed and Board Divorce Differs From Absolute Divorce
Bed and board divorce is an at-fault legal proceeding in which one party must prove that they have a legitimate complaint. Given that the marriage contract remains intact with a bed and board divorce, neither party can legally remarry. Remarrying after getting a bed and board divorce is an act of bigamy.
Getting a bed and board divorce is a separate legal action from seeking an absolute divorce. There is no need to obtain a bed and board divorce in order to qualify for absolute divorce.
An absolute divorce terminates the marital contract between two people. With an absolute divorce, both parties are free to marry again, and shared assets are duly divided as determined by mutual agreement or divorce settlement. With an absolute divorce, both parties must agree to separate. In North Carolina, a couple must live separately for one full year before an absolute divorce can be obtained.
But what happens when a spouse is violent, neglectful, or engaging in other wrongdoing? Worse still, what if a spouse is engaging in potentially harmful behaviors but refuses to agree to divorce? Bed and board divorce could solve this problem.
What Are the Benefits of a Bed and Board Divorce?
If you’re seeking to push the issue of divorce with an unwilling spouse for the sake of remarrying, this legal action isn’t right for you. However, if you’ve been abandoned by your partner or have been dealing with other forms of stress in your marriage, this manner of divorce will allow you to:
- Legally remove an at-fault partner from your shared dwelling
- Seek child support
- Seek post-separation support or alimony
- Seek custody of minor children
However, each of these actions must be taken separately. Bed and board divorce does not change the current child custody arrangement on its own.
Bed and board provides other benefits, especially regarding the distribution of one partner’s assets post-mortem. Once this process is complete, your ex will no longer have the right to:
- Administer estates
- Succeed a homestead
- Intestate succession
However, each person often retains the right to sell shared property without first obtaining permission from the other party depending on whose name is on the title.
How Is a Divorce From Bed and Board Obtained?
In some ways, getting a divorce from bed and board is easier than getting an absolute divorce. With this legal process, it is not necessary for spouses to spend a full year living apart before applying for divorce from bed and board. Instead, the primary challenge lies in proving that the other party was at-fault.
Given that this is an at-fault divorce, you must be ready to prove to the court that you have a legitimate reason for legally separating from your spouse.
Evidence of an at-fault spouse
What does it mean to be an at-fault spouse? With an absolute divorce, both parties can agree to separate due to irreconcilable differences, even when neither party is at-fault for the unsuccessful union. With bed and board, a solid reason must be given. Reasons for citing a spouse as being at-fault include:
- Intentionally cruel treatment
- Being subjected to personal indignities
- Excessive alcohol or substance abuse
There are only six reasons for which a spouse can be considered as being at-fault in North Carolina. However, the definition for each is fairly open. Thus, if you’re having a hard time establishing grounds for a bed and board divorce, Remington & Dixon can help you find the best approach to take.
In some instances, a spouse may be at-fault in more than one of the six legally recognized marital shortcomings. Not only can our attorneys help you define exactly how your part is or was at-fault, but we can also help you collect evidence that proves your mistreatment.
Does Getting a Bed and Board Divorce Make Sense for You?
Getting a bed and board divorce significantly changes each person’s rights in a marriage in reference to the other. It provides an out for someone married to a partner who cannot agree to separate. For others, this manner of divorce makes it possible to protect personal assets, request various forms of support, and take concerted actions for establishing legal orders for child custody and visitation.
Given that bed and board divorce is determined based upon one party’s fault, this type of case can have a bearing on how spousal support is awarded and how custodial and visitation agreements are made.
Is Reconciliation Possible After Bed and Board Divorce?
Divorce proceedings are often fraught with emotion. Certain at-fault behaviors can make victimized partners feel at their wit’s end. However, this does not mean that couples cannot work through their differences, solve their problems, and eventually reunite.
With bed and board divorce, after reconciling, at-fault parties reclaim their lost spousal rights. Moreover, if couples choose to separate again, they’ll either need to live separately for one full year and apply for absolute divorce or reapply for another bed and board divorce.
Contact Remington Dixon to Start Building Your Case for a Bed and Board Divorce
Finding the right way to end your marriage isn’t easy. Bed and board divorce gives people victimized by at-fault partners a greater sense of autonomy.
Getting a bed and board divorce in North Carolina also makes it easier to protect property, obtain favorable outcomes from spousal support requests, and more. If you’re considering a bed and board divorce in NC and want help, get in touch with Remington Dixon today.
Bed and Board Divorce FAQs
Will a bed and board divorce affect my health insurance?
Are there other prerequisites besides fault for filing for bed and board divorce in North Carolina?
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.