Welcome to the second article in our three-part series on the various divorce laws applicable in North Carolina. In this section, we will be discussing Divorce from Bed and Board.
Divorce from Bed and Board is little more than a legal separation agreement with fault. The moving party must prove that the spouse is at-fault for one of the following reasons:
- Abandons his or her family;
- Maliciously turns the other out of doors;
- By cruel and barbarous treatment endangers the life of the other. In addition, the court may grant the victim of such treatment the remedies available under G.S. 50B-1, et seq.;
- Offers such indignities to the person of the other as to render his or her condition intolerable and life burdensome;
- Becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life of that spouse burdensome;
- Commits adultery.
The North Carolina Supreme Court described divorce from bed and board as follows:
A divorce from bed and board is nothing more than a judicial separation; that is, an authorized separation of the husband and wife. Such divorce merely suspends the effect of the marriage as to cohabitation, but does not dissolve the marriage bond.
What is dissolved in a limited divorce, then, is the obligation to live together, not the marriage itself.
Divorce from Bed and Board has little to no effect on property rights. On the other hand, the spouse against whom a divorce from bed and board was entered loses all rights of intestate succession to the estate of the other spouse and the right to an elective life estate in lieu of the intestate share; the right to dissent from the spouse's will; and the right to administer the spouse's estate among other rights.
In regard to support rights and obligations, once again little would change. The same obligations remain intact because the couple is still married. That being said, a dependent spouse is able to seek alimony as a joint action for divorce from bed and board and the action may prompt action in regard to child support. On the other hand, these actions can be pursued outside of a divorce for bed and board.
In the end, this judicial separation does little to the actual marriage and spousal rights. Outside of certain insurance contracts, pre- and post-marital agreements, estate law, and the separation requirement for an absolute divorce, a Divorce from Bed and Board, while being a long-standing tradition in the ecclesiastical courts of England, serves little use in modern law.