Lawyer discussing equitable distribution process in North Carolina to a client

What Do I Need to Know About Equitable Distribution in a North Carolina Divorce?

If you’re facing a divorce in North Carolina, “equitable distribution” is likely to be one of the first legal terms you hear.

What is Equitable Distribution in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, equitable distribution refers to how property is divided between spouses during a divorce. “Equitable” doesn’t necessarily mean “equal.” Instead, the court divides property in a way that is deemed fair. The court consults a list of factors when deciding what constitutes a fair and equitable distribution of property. 

The distribution of assets plays a major part in any North Carolina divorce. This is why it’s in your best interest to work with a trusted divorce lawyer to handle your case in the best way possible.  

Common Questions About Equitable Distribution in North Carolina

Understandably, people often have questions about equitable distribution and what it means for their case. Since the court will decide how to divide the couple’s assets and debts. Should the parties be unable to settle ED out of court, this decision will ultimately have a significant impact on both party’s lives and financial stability after the divorce is final.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about equitable distribution.

What Is Equitable Distribution? 

Equitable Distribution is the body of law that governs the division of property and debts in North Carolina. North Carolina is not a community property State.

In NC, there is a presumption that marital assets and debts are divided equally between spouses. However, certain factors can be considered in awarding one party greater than half of the marital assets or debts.

Does it Matter Who Files?

Sometimes, people wonder if filing for divorce will impact their right to receive property. Under North Carolina law, property distribution is not impacted by who files for divorce. It doesn’t matter who initiates the divorce for purposes of the division of assets. 

Does Marital Misconduct Matter?

Additionally, the court typically does not factor in any kind of misconduct on the part of a spouse when deciding how to divide property. However, an exception to that is situations involving waste or fraud. If one spouse engaged in some kind of wasteful or fraudulent activity or the couple’s finances, this could affect how property is distributed.

What Is Separate Property? 

In some cases, the parties might have a claim to separate property. In a divorce, you can have marital property or separate property. Property one spouse owned prior to the marriage or by way of a gift or an inheritance may qualify as separate property.

By contrast, the marital property belongs to both spouses. It doesn’t matter if the property is titled in one spouse’s name, or if that spouse earned the property entirely on their own. If a spouse acquired property during the course of the marriage, it’s most likely marital property.

A good example of marital property is a retirement account. Just because one spouse earned the retirement money on their own by working at a job doesn’t mean the other spouse doesn’t have an ownership interest in the money in that account.

Likewise, a good example of separate property is an inheritance one spouse received from a relative, even if it was during the marriage. As a general rule, an inheritance is a separate property. 

It’s also possible for separate property to become marital property during the course of the marriage. This occurs through the commingling of assets. For example, if the husband owned his own home prior to the marriage, but then titled the property jointly as husband and wife, he may have connected it to marital property.

Can My Spouse and I Decide How to Divide Our Property?

Yes, you and your spouse can make decisions regarding how you want your property to be distributed. In fact, this is the ideal outcome in any divorce. It’s much better for the parties to decide how they would like to distribute their property rather than go through the litigation process required for the court to make a decision.

If you rely on the court to decide, you may not like the outcome. However, in cases where the parties simply can’t agree on a division of their assets, it may be necessary to go to trial. In that case, the ultimate decision is left up to the judge.

Contact a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer About Your Case

If you have questions about the division of property in a divorce in North Carolina, it’s important to speak with a North Carolina family law attorney about your case. Feel free to contact Raleigh Divorce Lawyers at (919) 841-5680 if you want to schedule a consultation.