As readers may know, North Carolina law permits a no-fault divorce. In such a divorce proceeding, one party does not have to establish that the other spouse was at fault or did something wrong. Rather, an individual simply needs to convince the court that the marriage relationship has broken down and can – or should – no longer be preserved.
Of course, the separation of church and state in America might produce conflicting responses from friends, family or religious leaders. Even though divorce may be an individual’s legal right, his or her religious institution may nevertheless disapprove.
The dichotomy between religious and legal rights may explain the motivations behind the criminal defendants’ actions in an unusual divorce story. According to authorities, two rabbis were charged for allegedly conspiring to assault a man who refused to grant his wife a divorce because of his Orthodox beliefs. In a rabbinical court proceeding, a woman may not sue for divorce unless her husband has provided his documented consent.
Other religious traditions offer their own versions of divorce or annulment. State law does not have an exact counterpart, although legal annulment – a court judgment that invalidates a marriage, as if it had never occurred – may be available in limited cases. For example, if a marriage was based on fraud or a spouse lacked the capacity to enter into marriage, a North Carolina court might grant an annulment request.
State law also allows a couple to legally separate, where marital property is divided but the marriage remains intact. As a divorce attorney might agree, however, the most common scenario chosen by couples is no-fault divorce.