One major worry that couples face when they divorce is property division. Who gets the house, who gets the car, and how will you divide up everything else? Even couples who expect straightforward, quick divorces may find property division surprisingly stressful.
Property Division Basics
North Carolina uses an equitable distribution system to divide property in a divorce. This means that the judge overseeing the divorce will decide how to give each spouse a fair portion of the couple’s marital and divisible property. Equitable distribution is different than the community property method of property division, which applies in different states with different laws.
It is important to note that marital property includes all property that you and your spouse acquired or earned during marriage. Property that each of you already owned before the marriage is called separate property. Divisible property includes any changes in the value of marital property between your separation date and when the property is distributed, such as bank interest. It also includes anything that you earned during marriage but did not receive until after separation, like a bonus.
Who Keeps the House and Car?
The equitable distribution system takes into account that you may own assets that are difficult to divide – such as a house or a car. To make a fair division of marital property, the judge must decide who will keep those valuable assets. Many different factors may influence the way property is divided, including but not limited to:
- Each spouse’s income, property, and liabilities
- A parent who has child custody needing to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects
- Whether property is liquid or nonliquid
- Any claim to or contribution made to the acquisition of marital property by the spouse who doesn’t have title to the property
- Length of the marriage
- Age and health of the spouses
- Any alimony or child support requirements from a prior marriage
- Tax consequences to each spouse
For example, a parent who has sole child custody may need to use the family’s house to house the children, as well as need to maintain residence in the same school district so the children don’t have to change schools. This could be a situation that influences property division.
Also, who has title to the house or who “wants” the house the most may not matter for equitable distribution purposes. It’s more about making a fair division of the marital property based on evaluating the many factors listed in the law.
Can We Decide Property Division Ahead of Time?
With the help of a divorce lawyer near you, you can decide aspects of property division ahead of time. Typically you would do this in a prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreement, or separation agreement. Prenuptial agreements are signed before marriage, while postnuptial agreements are signed during marriage. Separation agreements are signed either just before or during separation. All of these agreements can include explanations of how the couple agrees to divide marital property should they divorce.
For example, you could expressly state that one spouse keeps the house while the other gets the car. Or you could agree to sell the house and split the proceeds should you divorce. There are many ways to divide property that can be explained in a written agreement. If you are interested in signing such an agreement, contact a family law attorney who can help you prepare it.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering separation and divorce, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.