The Rights and Liabilities of Married Couples in NC

In Relationships, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When you find the right person, it is natural to see a future together, one in which you grow and evolve together. The decision to get married is an enormous emotional commitment—it is a partnership of trust that you want to last forever. Beyond an emotional commitment, marriage is also a legal commitment with some significant rights as well as potential liability. For those married in North Carolina, here are some of those rights and liabilities.

  • The right to retain separate property. Real estate and property that a spouse brings into a marriage can stay with that person, as well as the right to convey, deal, and enter into contracts regarding that property later. Further, damages that a spouse receives based on a personal injury or tort remain with that spouse.
  • The right to enter into a life insurance policy on the other spouse’s life.
  • The right to sue your spouse for a tort cause of action based on conduct that happened in North Carolina or another state.
  • The right to enter into contracts with the other spouse to convey personal property to the other, so long as it meets specific technical requirements and is not inconsistent with public policy.
  • The right to agree upon separation agreements that resolve issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support.

Separate Debt and Marital Debt Distinguished

It is also critical to understand how debt and marriage intersect. Marital debts are debts incurred by a couple during the course of a marriage. This includes a mortgage, credit card debt, auto loans, etc. So long as a debt was incurred after the date of marriage and before the date of separation, and it was incurred for the joint benefit of the parties, then it is marital debt. This is true regardless of whether the loan is technically only in the name of one spouse in almost every situation.

On the other hand, separate debt—or debt that existed prior to a marriage- remains the liability of the spouse that entered the marriage with that debt. In most situations, getting married makes no change to the status of that debt and the other spouse cannot be held liable for it. The same is true of separate liability for wrongs (personal injury and torts) committed prior to the marriage.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

New Direction Family Law is a full service family law firm that can assist clients with prenuptial agreements, separation agreements, temporary orders, child custody orders, property division, alimony, and child support. It is our job to protect the legal interests of our clients, and we take great pride in doing our jobs well. With years of experience and an excellent reputation, we can help you get it right the first time. We serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to arrange an appointment or visit us online at our website.