North Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that when the two parties to a divorce cannot reach a settlement, the General Court of Justice steps in. The initiation of this includes a discovery process to determine which debt and/or property is marital. After this has been completed, the General Court of Justice will dedicate a monetary value to marital debt and property.
There are three different categories for property. Marital property is all the property that was acquired during the course of the marriage (although it excludes separate property). Examples include vested pension or any retirement benefits between the date the couple was married and the date of separation. This can be the most complex category for property distribution, since it’s difficult to determine at what time some assets were acquired and whether they can be classified as “marital.”
The second category is separate property, which refers to any assets owned by either spouse before the marriage, or some property that was acquired during the course of the marriage. This can also be a difficult category to determine, since income from some separate property is considered separate but a gift from one spouse to the other during the marriage is marital property.
The final category is divisible property. Some examples include increases and decreases in the value of marital property and property received after the date of separation. There’s a key difference between divisible property and martial property: marital is valued as of the date of separation, whereas divisible property is valued by the court at the time the trial occurs. Both forms of property, however, are supposed to be distributed equitably.
Finally, the marital assets are distributed equitably between the two parties. Bear in mind that equitable doesn’t necessarily mean “exactly equal,” because the court uses its discretion to divide these assets in a “fair” fashion.
There are many factors considered in the distribution of property when it comes to fairness. These include any indirect or direct contribution made by one spouse to help educate the other spouse, the expectation of a pension or retirement that is not considered marital property, any obligation for one spouse coming from a prior marriage, the income and property of each party, the duration of the marriage and factors influencing each party such as age and mental health at the time. The need of a parent with custody of any children to occupy the household is another key factor.
If you’re concerned about your assets in the division of property in your divorce, you need to work with a qualified attorney to protect your interests. If you’re facing a North Carolina divorce, contact Jonathan Meek today for legal advice and representation.
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