Equitable distribution is the way that North Carolina courts divide property when a couple divorces. If you find yourself at the end of your marriage, understanding how equitable distribution works is equivalent to understanding your critical property rights.
When a couple gets married, almost all property earned and attained after their date of marriage becomes marital property. Each spouse has a stake in this property, which courts typically divide equally between the spouses when they divorce. However, if a court finds that it is not fair to make this equal division, it will make an equitable division based on numerous factors that look at:
- The length of their marriage;
- Child custody and the need of the custodial parent to remain in the marital home;
- The financial status and obligations of each spouse;
- The contributions of each spouse to the property interests and career of the other spouse;
- The justice and propriety of the division.
Accurate Identification of Property
To protect your property interests, it is essential to consult with a family attorney to help you classify your property as marital property or separate property. In contrast to marital property, separate property is everything that a spouse owned before the date of marriage. It also includes gifts and inheritance left specifically to one spouse during the marriage.
The reason the distinction is important is that courts cannot touch separate property as it pertains to its equitable distribution decisions. Separate property remains with its original owner even after a divorce. Proper classification is easier said than done when it comes to complex property, to separate funds that have been commingled with marital property, and to retirement funds. An attorney can help conduct the research and analysis necessary to protect your separate property rights.
Temporary Restraining Order
A divorce is a heated and emotional event, and people don’t always make good decisions. Sometimes, spouses will try to take control of the property or to waste, spend, or destroy property when the relationship ends. If there is a risk of this, where a spouse believes that the other has or will engage in improper conduct, the other spouse can seek a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to stop this behavior. This restraining order can order that a spouse cannot access the marital property, move or transfer property, or take any action to harm the marital estate. This order serves as a stopgap until the court can further consider issues of property and violating the order can result in a contempt finding and sanctions.
On the other side of this, we advise our clients not to take matters into their own hands when it comes to marital property. A spouse who is found to have wasted, neglected, or devalued marital property will generally be held responsible for this when the court reaches an “equitable” division of property to account for this property misconduct. Instead, we advise our clients to rely on our knowledge of the law and our experience in helping clients protect their interests.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If your marriage is ending, you need to speak with an attorney to understand and protect your significant property rights. New Direction Family Law provides family law representation to men and women in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Our attorneys are effective, knowledgeable, and proven. We utilize our extensive experience to conduct a comprehensive and methodical examination of your marital estate to make sure that property is accurately classified and appraised. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us online at our website.