Equitable Distribution: The Difference Between “Fair” and “Equal”

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

When a married couple permanently separates and heads toward a divorce, there are a ton of emotions to unpack and sort through. These emotions are natural and can completely dominate your mental space. However, there are numerous issues that you will eventually need to face head on, including how your marital property is going to be divided.

Community Property Versus Equitable Distribution

There are numerous “community property” states across this country that consider all property acquired during the course of a marriage to belong equally to both spouses. Thus, this property is considered community property that is split 50-50 when the couple divorces. In fact, a lot of people have a misconception that when you divorce, you will lose (or gain) half of all property. This is not universally true.

North Carolina is an “Equitable Distribution” state. This means that all property classified as marital property is subject to being divided equitably between a couple when they divorce. Significantly, this is different than the concept of community property because instead of an “equal” division, property may be divided in a fair manner if the court determines that “an equal division is not equitable.” This may be based on a consideration of numerous statutory factors, including:

  • The separate income, liabilities, pensions, and prior support obligations of the parties;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The ages and health of both parties;
  • The need of a custodial parent to remain in the marital home;
  • The contributions of the parties to the value of separate property, or to the other’s education or career;
  • The difficulties in valuing business interest or complex assets;
  • The contributions of a party as a wage earner or homemaker;
  • The actions that a party took to waste or devalue marital property; or
  • “Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.”

So while an equitable distribution proceeding may result in an equal division, you should never count on that being the case as courts have broad discretion to determine whether an equal division is ”equitable.”

Contact New Direction Family Law

Making sure that your marital property is divided in a fair manner is essential to your financial future. At New Direction Family Law, we know the law and are experienced in helping clients navigate the complexities of classifying property, appraising property, and ensuring that the court has all the information it needs to reach a fair decision. We can help you. Our firm serves Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us at our website.