Understanding North Carolina’s Equitable Distribution Statute

North Carolina courts use the equitable distribution law to determine how to divide the property of divorcing spouses. The law only applies when a divorcing couple cannot agree on how to divide their own property. Divorce is a stressful process. When couples cannot decide how to divide their property, the process can become even more stressful. Most married couples work together to grow their assets throughout their marriage.

Losing a paid-off home, retirement accounts, and vehicles can be financially devastating for a divorcing individual. Hiring a skilled divorce lawyer is essential. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our lawyers have the experience and skills to fight hard for our clients throughout the divorce process. Contact our Charlotte divorce law firm today to schedule your consultation.

Marital vs. Separate Property in North Carolina

When a court grants a request for equitable distribution, it will first examine the property owned by the spouses. The first step in the equitable distribution process is to decide which property is marital property. North Carolina’s equitable distribution law defines marital property as any property acquired by one or both spouses during the marriage but before the date of separation.

Separate property includes any property acquired by a spouse before the marriage, inherited property, or gifted property. The court will presume that the property is marital property unless a spouse presents enough evidence to overcome the presumption. Disputes over separate and marital property can have a huge impact on a divorcing spouse. Working with a skilled lawyer is essential in a divorce proceeding. If you are in the divorce process in North Carolina and your spouse is attempting to classify your separate property as marital property, Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help.

Factors Involved in Complex Equitable Distribution

Once the court determines which property is marital property, it will divide up the marital property in a fair manner. The equitable distribution statute requires an equal division of the couple’s marital property. In an equal distribution, one spouse would receive 50% of the marital property and the other spouse will also receive 50% of the marital property. Courts must split the property equally unless the court determines that doing so is not equitable or fair. Courts should consider the factors listed in the statute when deciding whether or not to divide the marital property equally. The relevant factors include the following:

  • The property, income, and debts of each spouse
  • Any child or spousal support arising from a previous marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, mental health, and physical health of both spouses
  • The need of a spouse who has custody of a child of the marriage to live in the marital residence or use household effects
  • The expectation of one spouse to share in another’s spouse’s retirement, pension, or any other compensation that is not marital property
  • Whether one spouse was a homemaker who made an indirect or direct contribution to the marital property
  • Any indirect or direct contribution that one spouse to the other spouse’s career or education
  • Any contribution made by one spouse during the marriage that increases the value of separate property
  • The difficulty of deciding the value of a component asset or a business interest
  • The tax consequences for each spouse that would take place if the marital property is liquidated and split equally
  • Any acts of either spouse that helps maintain or increase the marital property
  • Any acts of either spouse that waste, devalue, or convert marital property
  • Any other factor that the court finds proper and just
Filing a Motion for Equitable Distribution and for Injunctive Relief

When spouses are separated and do not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a spouse can file a motion for equitable distribution. When a spouse files a motion for equitable distribution, he or she can also seek injunctive relief. Injunctive relief can prevent the waste, disappearance, or conversion of the marital property. In other words, if a spouse is destroying, using up, or damaging marital property, a court can issue an injunctive order to stop that spouse from destroying assets.

Our Divorce Lawyer can Help

If you are facing a divorce in the Charlotte region of North Carolina, you may be worried about losing your hard-earned property. Hiring an assertive divorce lawyer is essential during a divorce case. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our lawyers fight hard on behalf of our clients to ensure that they receive a fair division of property. Speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or at our office in Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828.