Valuing Miscellaneous Assets in a North Carolina Divorce

Every marriage is unique, and many spouses accumulate some truly unique assets over the course of their relationship. While figuring out how businesses, stocks, and real estate are valued and divided is relatively easy, the same cannot be said for so-called “miscellaneous assets.” Because it is much more common for spouses to divide “normal” assets, North Carolina courts have developed precise strategies when handling these assets. On the other hand, miscellaneous assets are somewhat rare, and judges may not have the same level of extensive knowledge and experience when it comes to these matters. So, how are these miscellaneous assets divided?

If you want to approach this situation in the best way possible, work with an experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina. You can be confident that a seasoned divorce attorney has seen it all before. This means that no matter how strange or unorthodox your assets might be, your attorney will have a pretty good idea of how to help. 

Injury Settlements

What happens when one spouse receives an injury settlement during the marriage? How is this injury settlement handled in a divorce? In certain situations, these settlements may be considered marital property. This overall process can become quite complicated because courts use the specific damages to determine whether the settlement was separate or marital. Some damages might be suffered by both spouses - like loss of consortium or loss of services. In terms of workers’ compensation, North Carolina generally maintains that awards for workplace injuries during the marriage are marital property. 

Timber Rights

In some cases, spouses might own land with significant amounts of timber. This timber represents an asset that can be considered separate from the actual property itself. Courts in North Carolina only consider these timber assets to be separated from the underlying land if the timber is “mature and ready for harvest” at the time of separation. In one case, spouses oversaw the planting of 130 acres of timber during the marriage. This couple planted the trees with the idea that they would mature in 2007. 

However, they eventually divorced in 1992, and the timber was not considered mature enough for harvest. As a result, the court determined that the timber assets were “too speculative” to be regarded as marital property, arguing that a wildfire or an insect infestation might very well destroy the trees. In other words, timber must be immediately ready for harvest in order to be considered a marital asset. 

Vehicle Leases

If spouses purchase a vehicle during their marriage, it is considered marital property. But what happens if that vehicle is then leased to a third party? The lease itself is then considered a marital asset, and the fair market value of that lease can then be distributed between the spouses. In addition, the vehicle and the lease are generally considered two separate property items. 

Stock Options

A stock option is a right to buy shares at a fixed price. These assets often prove to be problematic in divorces that involve a spouse who is a corporate executive, as stock options are generally included in these individuals’ benefit packages. For the most part, stock options are handled in the same way as pension rights when it comes to a divorce. Stock options are also considered marital assets if they are “earned” during the marriage. Valuing these stock options may seem like a complicated process. After all, how do you assign a value to something that is not necessarily an asset in and of itself but rather the “option” to purchase an asset?

The answer (at least in principle) is actually straightforward. Courts simply use the separation date to determine what the value of these stock options would be at that specific time. In other words, how much money would the spouse make if they “cashed in” their stock options at the time of the separation? In practice, courts can run into all kinds of issues when trying to value stock options. These issues include tax problems, potential insider trading violations, lack of available funds to actually exercise the stock options, and the fact that the options may not be “vested” at the time of separation. 

Enlist the Help of a Qualified, Experienced Attorney Today

If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We have helped countless spouses in the Tar Heel State deal with matters related to complex property division. During our many years in the legal world, we have seen all kinds of unique situations. No matter how unique your assets might be, we can help you pursue a favorable legal outcome efficiently. Book your consultation, and we will listen to your unique situation before helping you move forward confidently.