Goldsboro Divorce Lawyers
When a couple goes through a divorce, there is no small amount of legal issues to work through. At a time when spouses may be feeling serious personal pain, the hard legal footwork it takes to secure a fair settlement can seem overwhelming. As Goldsboro divorce lawyers, we understand the pain and we’re ready to take the legal burden off your shoulders.
Strickland Agner Pittman believes that fighting hard for our clients and doing right by them is why we’re here. We’ll work to get you a fair settlement and protect your long-term interests. Call us at (919) 893-0090 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation.
Property Division in a North Carolina Divorce
The state of North Carolina uses the principle of equitable distribution to divide up property between the spouses. It’s important to note that this does not require that property be split 50/50. Equitable is not the same as equal.
What equitable distribution does require is that a settlement be fair under the circumstances. While a 50/50 split can be a starting point–and may even be a finishing point–the law does not mandate it.
In determining equity, a North Carolina court will consider a range of factors. These can include the length of the marriage, each spouse’s potential for earning income in the future, along with their age and health. If one spouse was at fault for wasting money–or the dissipation of marital assets–as it’s called by the court–that might also be considered in an equitable settlement.
It’s worth noting that all of these factors can also be considered in determining spousal support (or alimony) payments. But that is a separate matter from the basics of property division.
There are also two different steps to consider in a North Carolina property division case. The first is making the distinction between marital property (that which the spouses own jointly) and separate property (that which is exclusively their own). Separate property reverts entirely to the spouse that owns it. Only marital property is subject to equitable distribution.
The Difference Between Marital Property and Separate Property
The key distinction between what property belongs to the marriage and what belongs to the individual spouse lies in the date the property was acquired. Property acquired before the marriage is typically considered separate property. That which was obtained after the wedding date will likely be classified as marital property.
It’s important to understand what doesn’t matter in terms of defining property. For example:
- It doesn’t matter if one spouse used property exclusively. If an expensive collection of tools in the garage was only used by one spouse, that doesn’t make it their own. If the tools were purchased after the wedding date, they are the property of both spouses equally and subject to equitable distribution.
- It doesn’t matter if one spouse’s name is the only one on a piece of property. A good example here might be a 401(k) account. It’s likely that this account is exclusively in the name of the spouse who has the job with the 401(k). But the account, just like all other income earned through employment, is considered marital property.
- It doesn’t matter if one spouse earns significantly more income than the other. The law recognizes both spouses as equal contributors to the marriage. The adage of “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” is taken seriously by the state of North Carolina.
These are just a handful of examples. What they underscore is that, while there can be exceptions depending on unique circumstances, it’s good to start with the presumption that if a person acquired property during the marriage, it will almost certainly be classified as marital property.
By contrast, separate property is what a spouse brought into the marriage. A piece of furniture that they brought from their apartment to the marital home can revert back to the spouse, without any tradeoffs needing to be made in an equitable distribution settlement. The same goes for a car. Those tools we used as an example further up? If they were purchased prior to the marriage, they can revert back to the spouse who owned them.
Cases like a 401(k) account can be complex, depending on the circumstances. What if a person has the same job they were at prior to the marriage? In a case like, a valuation expert might be required to determine what portion of the account is separate and what is marital.
The same goes for a house. It’s not uncommon for a newly married couple to move into a home that one of the spouses already owns. So far, the house is separate property. But it’s also not uncommon for spouses to do renovations and other improvements that enhance the value of the home. The increased value is marital property and expert witness testimony might be needed to define precise levels of value.
Sorting out marital property and separate property requires an astute attention to detail, the experience necessary to ask the right questions and a willingness to protect a client’s best interests. That’s what our Goldsboro divorce attorneys do. Call Strickland Agner Pittman today at (919) 893-0090 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
There is much to settle in a North Carolina divorce. A fair property settlement means having a Goldsboro divorce lawyer who is prepared to fight hard for your interests. That’s what we do at Strickland Agner Pittman. Are minor children involved in your divorce? Click here to learn how we can help with North Carolina child custody.