Do I Need a Lawyer for Property Division?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Dividing property when you separate from a spouse can be an awkward, intricate, and adversarial process. While emotions are still simmering from the separation, you must determine what property you both own, who the property actually belongs to, what it is worth, and who should walk away with it. In short, the timing is terrible and there is simultaneously little margin for error on decisions that could make or break your financial future. With that in mind, it should go without saying that you should at least think about hiring an attorney.

How Does Property Division Work in North Carolina?

North Carolina employs an “equitable distribution” method of dividing marital property. This generally means that all property obtained or earned during a marriage is spilt equally between separating spouses. However, the court may look at a pre-determined set of factors to determine whether the split should be unequal, and instead divided in an equitable manner.

Do You Need an Attorney?

The answer is not always a “yes.” For couples without much marital or separate property, it may not be worth your time or money to retain attorneys for the property division element of your divorce. This may include a couple that does not own a home and does not have assets that would require expert appraisal.

However, for couples that own a home and/or have complex assets, such as investment property, business interests, or fine art, it is almost a necessity to retain an attorney to protect your legal interests. This is because equitable distribution involves two critical elements: (1) the classification of property; and (2) demonstrating the fair market value of all marital property.

When it comes to the classification of property, an experienced attorney can assist in determining whether property is separate or marital property. This is an incredibly important distinction because separate property is exempt from equitable distribution. However, this is not always a clear cut distinction as separate property can inadvertently be converted to marital property, like if the property is sold and the proceeds become comingled with marital property. Proper classification helps you get what you deserve.

Valuing marital property is every bit as important as classification, and it is very easy to get wrong without professional assistance. When it comes to real estate or complex property, attorneys often work with expert appraisers, who are knowledgeable about using accepted valuation methods to determine an accurate, credible fair market value for the court.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law offers legal counsel relating to separations, divorces, and the many issues that go along with the dissolution of a marriage, like the division of property. We know that this is a big moment in your life and want to provide you with the vision and focus to make sound decisions. Call us today. Our team serves residents of Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us at our website.