If you are considering a divorce in North Carolina, it’s essential to understand the different grounds for divorce and separation. In this blog post, we’ll explain the difference between the two grounds for no-fault absolute divorce and also provide some information on a judicial separation agreement process called “Divorce from Bed and Board.” By understanding the grounds for divorce and separation in North Carolina, you can make the best decision for your family.

No-Fault Absolute Divorce

Divorce is difficult enough without considering whose fault it is. There are two grounds for absolute divorce in North Carolina. They are both considered no-fault.

  1. One-Year Separation Period
  2. Incurable Insanity

The most common grounds for divorce is a year-long separation period. You don’t need any legal documents to prove your separation. There is no need for a legal separation agreement of any kind. However, you must live separately and apart from your spouse for one year, and you must both agree that you’ve lived one year without residing together. 

The other grounds for absolute divorce in NC is incurable insanity. If your spouse has been diagnosed with an incurable mental illness by two doctors, you can file for divorce. The condition must have lasted at least three years.

Fault-Based Separation

If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms to live separately for one year, you may apply for a “Divorce From Bed & Board.” This legal separation with judicial action considers how to separate and live apart from each other. It is not an absolute divorce and does not grant the right to remarry.

Grounds for a “Divorce from Bed & Board” in North Carolina include: 

  • Abandonment (that is, willfully leaving the marriage without just cause or the consent of the other spouse)
  • Maliciously turning the other spouse out of doors
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other
  • Indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs causing indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
  • Adultery

If you are considering a divorce from bed and board, it is essential to speak with an attorney to discuss your grounds and evidence. A divorce from bed and board may be the first step in getting an absolute divorce later if you choose to do so. It is important to note that a divorce from bed and board does not grant the right to remarry as an absolute divorce does.

Separation Agreements

Judges look at many factors when awarding alimony to a spouse. The agreements you and your spouse draw up during the separation period will likely affect your final divorce agreement. Many couples negotiate separation agreements easily, while others struggle to agree on anything.

When determining alimony and division of property, judges consider the marital misconduct of either of the spouses through the court date. The court also looks at factors such as:

  • Earning capacities of each spouse
  • Age and physical, mental, and emotional factors affecting each spouse
  • Time length of the marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage and the needs of each spouse now
  • Homemaker contributions 
  • Contributions by spouse to education, training, or earnings of the other
  • Education of each spouse
  • Education for the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet their needs
  • Financial impact of custody of children
  • All income: earnings, dividends, benefits such as medical insurance, retirement funds, other insurance, or Social Security
  • Property brought to the marriage 
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award

Your Actions Matter

Even though North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, your actions during your marriage can affect your separation agreement and, eventually, your divorce terms. Most couples find the most difficult points to negotiate include:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Distribution of assets
  • Alimony
  • Child visitation

If you and your spouse can agree on terms of separation, you can draw up your separation agreement and apply for absolute divorce after a year’s separation without much difficulty. This uncontested kind of divorce tends to be more straightforward and more cost-effective.

Consulting an attorney to draw up an uncontested divorce makes sense for your budget since there is no need for lengthy and drawn-out negotiations over property or children. If you need to work out disagreements, an attorney can also help you negotiate those terms.

We Can Help

If you are considering a separation or divorce, it is crucial to understand the legal process and how your actions can affect your future. At Plekan Law, we help couples agree to separation terms and eventually divorce. We realize that this is difficult, and our team of experienced attorneys will work with you to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today for a consultation so we can discuss the best options for you and your family.

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