When people get married, they rarely think "what happens to our assets and debts if we get divorced?" It can be a difficult and complex thing, dividing property between spouses, and you're going to need an attorney who is familiar with both North Carolina law, as well as Wake County provisions. Look no further than Miller & Smith, PLLC.
Most couples acquire a lot of property during a marriage. In a divorce, the term "property" isn’t limited to real estate, it includes everything from personal property; even items like a Blu-Ray collection, collectibles, furniture, furnishings, and automobiles. This can also include bigger investments, like homes, boats, savings accounts, stocks, or even a family business.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court will divide your property in a way that is equitable so that it must be fair. The court must begin the process by presuming that it is equitable to split the marital and divisible property equally. The law recognizes, however, that there are circumstances where an equal distribution would be unfair. In that case, the court will apply a set of factors to evaluate the past efforts and future needs of both spouses. Ultimately, the result must be a just division, even if it seems unbalanced.
Division of Marital and Divisible Property
Before the court can divide your property, it must characterize it as marital, divisible, or separate. These distinctions are important because your separate property remains free from division. At divorce, the court divides only the marital and divisible property.
- Marital property is all property acquired or earned during the marriage up until the date of separation.
- The court uses the divisible property category to catch any change in the value of marital property that happens between the date of separation and distribution. It includes any money or property that one or both spouses earned during marriage, but did not realize until after separation.
- Separate property is property you actively gain or lose after separation and any property that you owned before marriage. It can include property you received during marriage, but only if that property was intended for you alone (like a gift, an inheritance, or a professional license) or acquired by exchange of your separate property.
The most common types of property divided at divorce are real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry, and intangible property like income, dividends, benefits, and debts. At divorce, debts are treated the same as any other property. Before dividing a debt, the judge will have to characterize it as either marital, divisible, or separate based on when it was acquired, who acquired it, and how it was used. If the debt can’t be excluded from division as the separate liability of either spouse, then the court will split it equally between the spouses or apply the factors below to assign responsibility for it.
There are many factors to consider when property division becomes necessary, choose a lawyer that has a proven record of winning for our clients. Call our offices today for a free consultation.