Frequently Asked Questions: Equitable Distribution

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When it comes to the end of a marriage, couples have to find a resolution about their children and their money. Naturally, these issues can be sources of incredible tension and conflict. If you are considering a divorce, then it is of great importance that you take an informed, smart approach before agreeing to anything. Otherwise, you may be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table or waiving important legal rights. Therefore, we recommend that you contact an attorney and review some of our most frequently asked questions.

  1. What Property Will I Get When I Divorce? 

The answer essentially depends on when the property was acquired. If it was acquired or earned prior to your date of marriage, then you will likely take it with you when your marriage ends. If it was earned or acquired after the date of your marriage, then it is generally fair game to be divided between you and your spouse when your marriage ends.

Why is this? Because when a marriage ends in North Carolina, property is divided in a method referred to as “equitable distribution.” In an equitable distribution proceeding, a court considers whether property is “marital” property or “separate” property. Significantly, only marital property is to be divided by the court, making the distinction a very important one.

  1. What is Marital Property?

Marital property is defined as “all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of the separation of the parties, and presently owned, except property determined to be separate property or divisible property…” This also includes the pensions, retirement, and deferred compensation that is earned during the course of a marriage.

  1. How Does a Court Determine the Value of Property?

Courts look at the fair market value of marital property when assessing its value for purposes of equitable distribution. For some types of simple property, this market value can be easily determined. However, for complex property, such as business interests, your attorney may hire a forensic accountant to perform a comprehensive appraisal of this property based on the value of similar property and accepted accounting methods.

  1. How is Marital Property Divided?

Marital property is divided by the court in an “equitable” manner. This means taking the net fair market value of marital property, then dividing and distributing this property. Equitable does not always mean equal though. If the court doesn’t split the marital property equally between the spouses, then the court must consider a wide variety of factors to order an unequal division of marital property.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law provides high quality legal representation regarding the issues that arise when a marriage ends. You have significant property, money, and child custody rights that must be addressed, and it is in your interest to retain an attorney who will fight for you. If you need legal assistance, contact us today. Our office serves clients in 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.