What is an absolute divorce?

You may not realize it, but there are actually two types of divorce in North Carolina: “absolute divorce” and “divorce from bed and board.” An annulment of a marriage is also possible under certain circumstances.

Absolute divorce, you might say, is a “normal” divorce and the type of marriage termination that most spouses are seeking. Either party can obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina. Once you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least 12 consecutive months, the divorce may be granted. You do not need any written documentation to show you separated on a given date. Instead, you merely need to remember the date on which you separated. You also need to be certain that at least one of you, at the time of the separation, intended for the separation to be permanent.

A divorce from bed and board (DBB) is technically not a divorce at all, but rather a fault-based type of legal separation. The six grounds for this type of “limited divorce” are based on injury and include abandonment, cruel or barbarous treatment and adultery. Any of these six grounds for DBB must be proven through evidence. If granted, DBB does not mean that the marriage is ended, so neither you nor your spouse may legally remarry. DBB is rare among civilians but more common in the military community as a means to suspend the duty of spousal support. It can also give legal sanction to one partner leaving the marital home (so the action is not seen as “abandonment”).

A final option to end your marriage is annulment. Annulment, available under limited grounds, means that the marriage was never valid in the first place, and so now is null and void. Annulments are typically difficult to obtain, so unless you have a compelling reason for wanting one, you are probably better off seeking an absolute divorce.

However you choose to end your marriage, it’s important that you speak with a Raleigh divorce lawyer who understands the law and has your best interests in mind.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.