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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. …

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How a Mortgage May Be Addressed When You Separate

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Besides your retirement accounts, your marital home is likely the most valuable piece of property you own. You’ve likely invested a massive share of your savings and income to build equity in this important investment. When couples separate and divorce, this home becomes one of the big issues in settling the division of marital property. One of the important details, however, when figuring out how the home will be divided is what happens to the mortgage? That’s right. While a house is a giant asset, your home mortgage is one of your biggest monthly expenses. Therefore, it is important to understand the options available to address the mortgage in an equitable distribution proceeding. One Spouse Gets the Home A common scenario is for parties to agree, or for a court …

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True or False: My Wife Can’t Touch My Retirement

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

Divorce is the worst. It really is a shock to the system in a lot of ways. There is an enormous emotional toll that accompanies the end of your valued relationship. If you are a father and your family’s breadwinner, there is the uncertainty of what will happen with your children, whether you have the strength to guide them through this experience, and the prospect of seeing them a lot less than you ever have before. Further, there is a financial toll. If you have traditionally been the primary source of income for your home, then you understand that you are about to spend a lot of money on attorneys fees, will have to split marital assets in half, and will likely have to pay alimony and child support. With …

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The Nuts and Bolts of an Equitable Distribution Proceeding

In Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

When couples separate with the intention of a divorce, one of the big issues that couples must resolve is property. Property division is handled through an equitable distribution in North Carolina, meaning all marital property is split between spouses in an equitable manner. If you are on the verge of a separation, it will be useful to understand the nuts and bolts of an equitable distribution proceeding. Is An Agreement Possible? The first scenario in which a couple may divide their property is by agreement. If they executed a prenuptial agreement prior to their marriage, then the terms of that agreement are likely to be legally binding on each spouse. If there are any unresolved issues or unaddressed property, then the couple will need to address this following their separation. …

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What Happens to Debt When I Divorce?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When most people think about property division and divorce, they usually think about money, houses, investments, business interests, retirement, and personal property. This is natural, as the title is “property division” and the ultimate question is: who walks away with what? Despite the focus on property, another critical question that must be resolved when dividing property is: what happens to debt? North Carolina is an Equitable Distribution State Property division in North Carolina is referred to as “equitable distribution.” This means that all property deemed “marital” property is divided in an “equitable” manner—which generally starts off as a split down the middle, followed by the court making adjustments based on numerous statutory factors that make the division fairer. While people don’t like thinking about debt, it is an issue that …

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Utilizing Family as a Support System

In Relationships, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Separating from your spouse can feel like an incredibly lonely experience. The emotional and physical bond with your life partner has fractured beyond repair. This means the person you likely turned to for comfort in the past is not someone who can help you now. Even if you have children, they are going through their own unique experience from your own trauma. There is also the reaction of the community, your friends, and your family members, which can range from appropriate, to silent judgment, to explicit judgment. Rely on the Support of Your Family and Friends Just because you feel alone, does not mean that you have to be alone. If you have a healthy relationship with family members and friends, use them as a support system when you separate …

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Equitable Distribution and Complex Property

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

You work hard in your life to build a career, to invest wisely, and to build wealth for your future. That is why when you decide to separate and divorce, you want to make sure that you leave the marriage with every cent to which you are legally entitled. One of the critical issues that must be resolved when a marriage ends is marital property. In other words, who walks away with what? In North Carolina, these issues can be settled by agreement, or if an agreement cannot be reached, then it can go before a court that will make an equitable distribution of marital property. This is generally a 50/50 split of the net value of marital property unless the evidence supports that the court should split it differently. …

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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, …

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What is an Interim Distribution?

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Sarah Hink

Even if both spouses in a marriage work, it is not atypical for one spouse to make a lot more money or to have control over the family’s property, bank accounts, and investments. This discrepancy in power can create big challenges when it comes to separation and divorce. This is because the spouse who makes less money or has less access to resources can have difficulty covering the initial expenses of separation such as moving expenses, paying bills, living expenses, and even hiring an attorney. Significantly, North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means that regardless of the income discrepancy between spouses, courts will divide all marital property in an “equitable” manner between the spouses. This is because the law equally values the contributions of each spouse to the …

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What if My Separated Spouse Destroys Property?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

In the heat of a separation or impending divorce, it is tempting to make a grand exit and then drop the microphone. In our experience as family lawyers, we see all sorts of bad, ill-conceived conduct by separating couples—generally targeted toward each other, toward the children, toward pets, or toward property. These acts are designed to make a statement, to retaliate, or to punish each other. Some of these actions are legitimately embarrassing, some of them unlawful, and some turn out tragic. So what happens when your separated spouse starts destroying marital property? What are you supposed to do? The answer to this question is to contact a family law attorney immediately. This is because when it comes to property division in North Carolina, there are laws in place to …