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No-Fault Divorce in North Carolina

Historically, couples needed a reason to file for divorce, including showing the fault or misconduct of one spouse. However, like most states, North Carolina is now a “no-fault” state for divorce. This means the spouse who files for divorce does not need to show cause for the divorce or that any one spouse was at fault. 

Marital misconduct can have some effect on a divorce, specifically on spousal support or alimony. The court can consider misconduct, including infidelity, in determining whether to award support and how much support to award. 

If you have any questions about filing for divorce in North Carolina or how marital misconduct can have an effect on alimony, contact Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC today.  

North Carolina is a No-Fault State for Divorce 

In filing for absolute divorce in North Carolina, there are only two requirements: 

  1. A couple must have been physically separated for at least one year; and
  2. At least one spouse has resided in North Carolina six months prior to filing.

The separation must be intended by at least one spouse to be permanent and the individuals must not have resumed their marital relationship at any time in the prior year since separation. 

Divorce From Bed and Board

Divorce from bed and board is different from an absolute divorce. Divorce from bed and board in North Carolina orders legal separation between the spouses. However, in a divorce from bed and board, the couple is still legally married and neither spouse can remarry unless they get an absolute divorce. 

Unlike regular divorce in North Carolina, divorce from bed and board is based on fault. Under North Carolina statute § 50-7, the court may grant a divorce from bed and board if either party: 

  1. Abandons the family. 
  2. Maliciously turns the other out of the home. 
  3. By cruel or barbarous treatment, endangers the life of the other. 
  4. Offers such indignities to the other person as to render their condition intolerable and life burdensome. 
  5. Becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome. 
  6. Commits adultery.

After the court grants a divorce from bed and board, a spouse may still seek alimony, child support, property distribution, or child custody. However, if the spouse ever wants to remarry, he or she would have to get an absolute divorce. 

Fault in Divorce for Alimony and Post-Separation Support 

Even though North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, “fault” may still matter when it comes to the court determining: 

  • Post-separation support
  • Alimony (spousal support)

The court may consider “marital misconduct” in deciding whether to award post-separation support or alimony and the amount of support. The court can also use evidence of post-separation misconduct as corroborating evidence that misconduct occurred during the marriage. Under North Carolina statute § 50-16.1A(3), marital misconduct includes: 

  1.  Illicit sexual behavior, or sexual acts with someone other than the other spouse; 
  2. Involuntary separation caused by a criminal act (such as imprisonment);
  3. Abandonment of the other spouse; 
  4. Malicious turning the other spouse out of the home; 
  5. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse; 
  6. Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
  7. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets; 
  8. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome; or
  9. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one's means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome. 

Historically Limited Options for Divorce  

In the past, it was much more difficult for couples to get a divorce. Generally, one spouse had to show cause to end the marriage. Grounds for a divorce in the past may have included: 

  • Adultery, 
  • Cruelty, 
  • Desertion, or
  • Impotence.

North Carolina has allowed for no-fault divorce with one-year separation since 1965. Now, all states have passed no-fault divorce laws with New York being the last state to allow for no-fault divorce as of 2010. 

No-Fault Divorce Lawyers in North Carolina  

One spouse may place more blame on the other spouse for causing the breakdown of a marriage but divorce in North Carolina does not require showing the fault of either spouse. If you are considering a divorce or have been served with divorce papers, the experienced North Carolina family law attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC are here to help. Contact us in Shelby today for a free initial consultation.

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