With decreasing frequency in my practice over the past twenty-three I get asked about divorce from bed and board.

“Divorce from bed and board” under North Carolina law is a judicial separation.  In other words, it is a separation authorized by the court. This action suspends cohabitation, but does not dissolve the marital relationship like an absolute divorce.

A claim for divorce from bed and board must be based on certain statutory marital fault grounds that include adultery, abandonment, and other bad marital conduct.  A spouse defending this claim may defend by denying the grounds or by raising certain legal affirmative defenses such as condonation (forgiveness) and recrimination (the complaining spouse committed fault to and is therefore not entitled to the divorce from bed and board).

So what does a divorce from bed and board accomplish?  Most of the time these actions are filed to get one spouse out of the house and to cut off certain rights as set out in G.S. 31A-1(b).

So why did I start off this article by talking about the decreasing frequency of these claims? Because I have noticed fewer after the 1995 amendments to the alimony laws in North Carolina.  Prior to 1995, fault played a much greater role in the entitlement of alimony than it did after the changes in the law.

That is not to say there is no basis to file for divorce from bed and board.  there could be good reasons to do so in certain cases.  When the spouses just can’t get to a separation it is really the only claim that makes sense to file to attempt to cause a separation.  I have seen a few cases where a court heard child custody prior to the parties’ separation and granted custody an possession of the house to one parent; however, I have also seen some judges refuse to deal with custody until the separation occurs.


Family law attorney Scott Allen has litigated divorce from bed and board cases and has over seventeen years of experience.  If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at sallen@allenspence.com.