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Divorce from bed and board is not a divorce in the way we usually think about divorce because it does not end the marriage. A divorce from bed and board does not entitle either party to remarry. Divorce from bed and board is a judicial separation of the parties. The parties remain husband and wife but have the right to refuse to live together. The legal effects of divorce from bed and board are essentially the same as the effects of a voluntary legal separation.
Unlike absolute divorce , which is no-fault and based on a year of separation, divorce from bed and board must be based on fault. There are six grounds for divorce from bed and board. A court may grand divorce from bed and board if either party:
- Abandons his or her family
- Maliciously turns the other out of doors
- By cruel and barbarous treatment endangers the life of the other.
- 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 the life of that spouse burdensome.
- Commits adultery.
Why get a divorce from bed and board?
There may be several possible reasons to seek a divorce from bed and board. The most common is that one spouse wishes to separate but the other does not. If the spouse wishing to separate can not afford to move out, he or she may seek a divorce from bed and board in the hope that the other spouse will be ordered to move out of the marital home. This is especially likely in cases where only one spouse has an income or access to the family finances.
Another common reason to seek divorce from bed and board relates to health insurance. As we age, health insurance coverage gets increasingly more expensive. For a person who is covered by his or her spouse’s health insurance policy, the cost of losing that benefit alone makes it difficult if not impossible to afford to be divorced. Because divorce from bed and board is not a true divorce and leaves the parties married, it does not terminate one spouse’s ability to remain on the other spouse’s health insurance plan. The savings can make the difference between being able or unable to afford to live separately.
Religious considerations can also be a strong factor in seeking divorce from bed and board. In fact, divorce from bed and board has its roots in the Ecclesiastical Courts of England. For individuals who are religiously opposed to absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board can achieve most of the same effects without terminating the marriage.