Sex and intimacy are an important part of many people’s marriages. Although couples’ sexual desires for one another can ebb and flow due to emotional issues, physical issues, and other competing demands, when a marriage becomes completely sexless over an extended period of time, it can cause extreme strain when one spouse wishes to resume intimate relations with the other.
If you are in a sexless marriage and don’t want to be, the law provides options to you for seeking a physical separation from your spouse, possibly as part of the process toward a divorce. Contact a Raleigh divorce lawyer at Kurtz & Blum today to discuss your rights and options.
What You Need to Know About Sexless Marriages and Divorce
Even if you decide to pursue a no-fault divorce, the decision by one spouse to intentionally refrain from sexual relations can be grounds for establishing fault for other issues that arise in divorce, such as alimony or spousal support. In addition, if you find yourself in a sexless marriage, you may choose to seek a “divorce from bed and board” under North Carolina law.
What Is Divorce from Bed and Board?
A divorce from bed and board may be granted by a family court in North Carolina when one spouse establishes the existence of one or more grounds for divorce under North Carolina law. However, despite its name, a divorce from bed and board is not a divorce. Instead, it is considered a form of legal separation.
Although a spouse seeking a divorce from bed and board must show one of the legal grounds of fault for divorce, he or she does not need to observe the one-year waiting period for a typical absolute divorce. The grounds for fault in divorce in North Carolina include:
- Malicious turning out of doors
- Infliction of indignities
- Cruel and barbarous treatment
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
In a divorce from bed and board, the court may order one spouse to move out of the marital home. The court also may decide other issues that would arise in an absolute divorce, such as spousal support/alimony, child custody, and child support.
Although a sexless marriage is not listed in the law as a ground of fault for absolute divorce or divorce from bed and board, it can be strong evidence for a court to find constructive abandonment. Constructive abandonment differs from actual abandonment in that the spouse who has committed abandonment need not actually have physically left the marital home.
What Is Constructive Abandonment?
A court may find that a spouse has committed constructive abandonment of the marriage when he or she has failed to fulfill the obligations of marriage and has become emotionally and mentally absent from the marriage. Withholding of affection, love, or sexual relations can all be evidence of constructive abandonment.
Proving that a sexless marriage constitutes constructive abandonment can be an incredibly difficult task. Modern society recognizes that no one is entitled to sex, nor can a person force his or her spouse into sexual relations. However, when a spouse refuses intimacy, it can rise to the level of constructive abandonment if that refusal is found to be both willful and beyond the bounds of a normal marriage.
In order to prove willfulness, you will need evidence to show that your spouse knew that the lack of sex in your marriage was a problem for you. At a minimum, you will need to have brought up and tried to discuss the issue with your spouse.
However, if your spouse refuses to discuss the issue with you, to work on the issue together (such as through marriage counseling), and continues to reject any intimate advances, the withholding of sexual relations might be deemed to be willful. Evidence that your spouse is withholding sexual relations out of spite can also establish willfulness.
Establishing that the refusal of sex is beyond the bounds of a normal marriage can also be a complex matter. Periods of celibacy are common in all marriages, and a lack of sexual desire can be indicative of other emotional, financial, or personal problems in the marriage.
Getting the court to find constructive abandonment based solely on a sexless marriage is a tall order. You can strengthen your case by presenting other evidence of constructive abandonment, such as adultery, substance abuse, emotional or physical abuse, or lack of concern for family well-being.
What Does It Mean That North Carolina Is a No-Fault Divorce State?
As a no-fault divorce state, North Carolina does not require a spouse to prove fault in order to file for divorce. All that is required for a no-fault divorce is that the spouses live separately from one another. However, the traditional fault grounds for divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, indignities, cruel treatment, or excessive alcohol and drug use, can still be relevant in a no-fault divorce. In particular, establishing grounds for fault can affect the issues that must be resolved in a no-fault divorce, such as alimony, child custody, and child support.
How a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer Can Help You
If you are seeking separation due to a sexless marriage, our Raleigh divorce attorneys at Kurtz & Blum can help you understand your legal options. Our attorneys can help you by:
- Obtaining evidence of one or more grounds of fault for a divorce from bed and board
- Help you develop your case to show that your spouse is willfully withholding sexual relations to an extent that is beyond normal for a marriage
- Advocate on your behalf to establish constructive abandonment
- Petition to have your spouse removed from the marital home, if you wish
- Fight for your rights in post-divorce from bed and board issues, such as alimony/spousal support, child custody, and child support
Contact Kurtz & Blum today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable Raleigh divorce lawyers. Our team will discuss the details of your case and explain more about your legal rights and options for obtaining a separation from a sexless marriage.