What Happens if I Am Richer Than My Spouse in a North Carolina Divorce?

When a marriage is going well, spouses rarely think about the differences between their income levels. However, these differences can become extremely important when spouses are going through a divorce. When one spouse earns significantly more than the other, there are all kinds of issues that can arise during the divorce process.

No one wants to lose their hard-earned assets, especially if the separation was not your choice. Circumstances outside of your control may have resulted in the failure of the relationship, and you should not face unnecessary penalties as a result. Fortunately, there are many options available to you as you strive to keep hold of what is rightfully yours. Hire a qualified, experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina, and this process can be relatively straightforward.

You May Find It Easier to Win Custody

If you are significantly wealthier than your former spouse, not all of the potential outcomes are negative when going through a divorce. If you are fighting for custody of your children, you might even find it easier to win this legal battle. While it might seem strange that a judge should favor the wealthier spouse in child support cases, there is a firm basis for this logic, and it comes down to the child’s best interests.

If you earn more than $300,000 per year, a judge might come to the conclusion that the child’s “reasonable needs” have changed. For families with lower incomes, reasonable needs might include things like a child’s access to clothing, food, education, and reliable housing. For families with a higher level of wealth, however, a child’s reasonable needs are different.
 For example, your child may be enrolled at Tabernacle Christian School or another private school in Union County with high tuition costs. Or maybe they have formed a close relationship with a dedicated nanny who charges a high hourly rate. Perhaps your child is engaged in expensive hobbies or athletic pursuits, such as horseback riding or ice hockey. If your spouse is unable to maintain the standard of living that your child has grown accustomed to, they may find it difficult to gain sole custody. In order to prevent unnecessary suffering and angst for your child, the judge will likely grant you shared or sole custody as you continue to finance their “reasonable needs.”

Avoid Commingling Your Separate Property

If you want to avoid losing assets as a result of a divorce, it is important to understand how North Carolina defines different kinds of property:

  • Marital Property is property that you acquired over the course of your marriage. For example, you might have purchased a house shortly after your wedding.
  • Separate Property is property that you acquired after or before your marriage. For example, you might have purchased a home five years before your marriage, or perhaps you purchased stock six months after your legal separation.

While marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce, separate property is not. This means that if you have accumulated the majority of your wealth prior to your marriage, you should be able to avoid unnecessary losses. That being said, it is important that you avoid commingling your separate property with marital property. Commingling refers to the process of “mixing” assets together. For example, maybe you took your inheritance (separate property) and used it to purchase a home during your marriage (marital property).

This can lead to tricky situations when distributing assets in a divorce. However, it is not impossible to separate assets that have been commingled - it merely requires financial experts and a qualified divorce attorney who can get to the bottom of your financial records.

Spousal Support May Be an Issue

Spousal support or alimony represents a notable hurdle for individuals who have a significantly higher net worth compared to their former spouses. A judge may determine that your former spouse has become accustomed to a certain standard of living, and they may require you to pay spousal support that allows them to maintain this expensive lifestyle. However, there are many options available to you if you wish to mitigate these potential losses. For example, your former spouse may be ineligible for spousal support if they have been involved in marital misconduct, such as extramarital affairs.

The Importance of Getting Legal Help

While learning about these factors is a solid first step, your best source for legal advice and guidance is a qualified, experienced divorce attorney with a firm understanding of family law in North Carolina. These professionals can utilize many strategies to help you keep hold of your assets in a high net worth divorce. Reach out to Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at one of our three offices by calling 704-370-2828.