Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina (2024)

All relationships find themselves facing difficult times. However, couples can often work through their complications and come out even stronger on the other side. Unfortunately, not all conflicts end that way, and some couples find themselves facing divorce or separation. While no one enters into a marriage with the intent to end it years later, understanding the reasons for divorce in North Carolina can help prepare a couple for what may occur.

Sometimes, people begin to see patterns of behavior in their spouses that they are unable to move forward from. If this happens, couples can seek one of two types of divorce: an absolute divorce or a divorce from bed and board. An absolute divorce is what legally ends a marriage and allows either spouse to move forward. A divorce from bed and board is more commonly thought of as a legal separation, where the couple lives apart but is unable to remarry.

North Carolina Is a No-Fault State

Many couples assume that, to get a divorce, there must be some impropriety within the marriage. However, this is merely a myth, as North Carolina is recognized as a no-fault state, meaning that either spouse can seek a divorce for any reason. That does not mean that marital misconduct cannot become a factor in the final divorce settlement, but it does not have to be a part of the initial filing. Because it could be significant later, many refer to this as a hybrid situation, in which the initial divorce is not due to marital misconduct, but impacts on child support, alimony, or asset division are due to the misconduct that may have led to the divorce.

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

Because North Carolina is a no-fault state, couples seeking an absolute divorce, or one that legally ends the marriage, must do so for one of two reasons:

  • Incurable Insanity: If one spouse is suffering from a long-term, and incurable, mental illness, the couple may seek an absolute divorce. To do so, however, the couple must have lived apart for at least three consecutive years. This amount of time is generally equivalent to what may be necessary for a live-in facility to medically evaluate the patient and determine the course of treatment if one is available.
  • Separated for a Year: A couple seeking an absolute divorce must be physically separated for at least one year. During this time, they must have separate residences and may not simply live in different rooms within the same house. They may engage in sexual relations periodically, but they may not carry on any type of romantic relationship. In addition to the year of separation, at least one spouse must live in North Carolina for at least six months.

Grounds for Divorce From Bed and Board

Bed and board is more simply thought of as a legal separation. This may be an option for couples who wish to separate as they attempt to possibly reconcile later, but without ending the marriage. This could also occur if a couple wishes to no longer be married but chooses to do so because of children or benefits that one spouse may receive from the other. These types of divorces are often founded on marital misconduct, such as:

  • Abandonment: If one spouse leaves the family home without notice or communication, their action could be considered abandonment. If they receive permission from the other spouse to do so, it would not be abandonment.
  • Cruel or Barbarous Behavior: Some homes suffer from bouts of domestic violence or the creation of unsafe conditions by one spouse for other members of the family. While not all barbarous behavior is physical in nature, no matter what type of behavior it is, it can be dangerous and demeaning.
  • Indignity: If one spouse creates a home that is difficult to live in, or is considered intolerable, they may file for this type of divorce. This could be in the form of verbal abuse, humiliation, or other unbearable things.
  • Substance Abuse: When one spouse becomes addicted to illicit substances, it can create a dangerous environment for themselves and others in the home. This could be considered on its own or as another example of intolerable behavior.
  • Infidelity: It will always make an appearance on lists about divorce, and it can be the cause for many divorces from bed and board. When one spouse looks outside the marriage, there are several factors involved, and some couples are unable to move past that.

Evidence in a bed and board divorce is required, and it is up to the filing spouse to prove the fault in the marriage. It also must be noted that, for this type of divorce to be legally approved, the fault cannot be a result of retaliation or provocation.

FAQs About Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

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

Couples seeking an absolute divorce must prove their one-year separation to ensure that they have met the legal requirements to finalize it. Evidence can come in many forms, but it often includes proof of residence, such as:

  • A signed lease
  • Bank statements
  • Utility bills
  • Driver’s license
  • Voter registration
  • Military orders

Does North Carolina Recognize No-Fault Grounds for Divorce?

North Carolina is a no-fault state and therefore does not require proof of marital misconduct for the initial filing. This evidence can be introduced when the couple is settling the details of the final divorce agreement, but it is not necessary to prove it from the onset. If they are seeking a divorce from bed and board, the at-fault behavior will be a part of it.

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

For many couples, divorce is what they initially want, but they may end up reconciling. Not only does the one-year waiting period provide an opportunity for a couple to try and repair the marriage, but it is also required to ensure a child was not conceived prior to the end of the marriage. This can have major implications for the final divorce decree.

Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in North Carolina?

Because North Carolina is a no-fault state, it does not matter who initiates the divorce filing. The only requirement for divorce is to live separately for a year with the full intent to remain apart after the year. If there was a need to prove fault, then filing first may be an advantage, but this would only apply in other states or for a divorce from bed and board.

North Carolina Divorce Attorney

Divorces are complicated and can often be messy. Because of this, you should have the support of an attorney who can be there to help guide you through it and answer questions along the way. If you feel that you and your spouse should divorce, contact The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain and let us help you today.

Do not face the difficulties of divorce alone.
Call (704) 960-4656 or Email us to Schedule a Consultation.