Is North Carolina a No-Fault State?
Yes, North Carolina is a “no-fault divorce” state. That means a couple can get a divorce without having to prove that one spouse did something wrong to cause the split. When a state allows divorcing spouses the option of filing a no-fault or fault divorce, it’s up to the spouse to choose which legal path to take.
To get a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must meet two basic requirements:
- You must have lived separately and apart for at least 12 consecutive months. That means you must be staying in different residences, not sleeping under the same roof.
- At least one of you must have been a North Carolina resident for six months before initiating divorce proceedings.
Common Misconceptions About North Carolina No-Fault Divorce
You may have heard some myths about divorce in North Carolina. Here are the facts:
- You don’t need any official paperwork to prove that you were separated for 12 months. Just know the date that you separated.
- If you reconcile for a period of time and move back in together, you must restart the 12-month clock if you later decide to separate permanently.
- You can get a divorce even if your spouse doesn’t want it.
- You can get divorced even if some matters, such as child custody or equitable distribution of property, have not been settled.
Fault Plays a Role in Some Divorces
Most divorces in North Carolina are no-fault divorces. In some cases, however, the behavior of one spouse can be so offensive – such as in cases of domestic violence – that the other spouse seeks a “divorce from bed and board.”
Unlike a no-fault divorce, a divorce from bed and board is not an absolute divorce.
Instead, divorce from bed and board is a court-ordered separation that helps the complaining spouse settle some marital issues, such as rights to alimony, child visitation and child support. Getting a divorce from bed and board can also cause the at-fault spouse to lose some marital benefits, such as estate rights.
What You Need to Know about Divorce from Bed and Board
Divorce from bed and board can be confusing and is not often used in North Carolina. Here are things you need to know:
A divorce from bed and board is not a divorce. You are still legally married and are not entitled to remarry.
- Only the injured spouse can initiate proceedings for a divorce from bed and board.
- The injured spouse must successfully prove that the at-fault spouse is guilty of at least one of the following six grounds for divorce from bed and board:
- Maliciously forcing you to leave the residence
- Humiliating you so that life becomes intolerable
- Cruel treatment that endangers your life
- Substance abuse
Why You Need an Attorney for Your North Carolina No Fault Divorce
Keep in mind that this is a simple guide. You should consult a divorce attorney if you have questions involving children or property – and especially before you sign anything.
A separation agreement is a binding contract. Before you sign an agreement or any document provided by your spouse’s attorney, it is wise to speak with a divorce lawyer who can make sure that the document is fair and preserves your rights.
We know that divorce hurts. We can help. If you have questions about no-fault divorce or divorce from bed and board, contact us today.
Last updated April 30, 2015