Property division is one of the most frequently disputed issues when couples divorce. The reasons are obvious. First, both members of any marriage contribute to the marital relationship, household, and family, and each is therefore entitled to his or her fair share of accumulated property. Second, property division helps each person to attain some sense of financial stability at a time of great personal upheaval.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that unless there is a pre-nuptial agreement or other agreement in place, courts in this state are permitted to take all marital property that a couple has accumulated between the time of their marriage and separation and to equitably divide and distribute that property between the couple in accordance with numerous statutory factors.
Marital and Divisible Property Must Be Valued
Beyond the classification of property as “marital” or “separate”, another critical task that attorneys and judges must determine is the valuation of property. Marital property valuation looks at the fair market value of property at the time of the couple’s separation. Divisible property, on the other hand, looks at fluctuations that have occurred in the value of marital property between the date of separation and the distribution of property. The value of divisible property is added to the value of marital property, and the net value is ultimately distributed equitably between the parties.
Relying on Experts
While property owners are allowed to estimate the value of their own property, there are many types of property, such as real estate, business interests, and valuables that are not easily valued. In other words, one cannot just go on the Internet and find a value that satisfies a court. Instead, many attorneys will retain experts who have a familiarity with the type of property that need to be valued. Unfortunately, this also sets up situations of dueling experts, in which one spouse’s expert appraises a property at an extremely low value, while the other spouse’s expert gives the same property a very high value.
Therefore, choosing an appropriate and trustworthy expert is a critical task, as the court relies on experts to make its findings. An expert must not only be familiar with the type of property to be valued, but must also be able to clearly explain to the court what type of approach was taken in appraising the property. In fact, a court has the discretion to appoint its own expert if it is unsatisfied with the work, testimony, or qualifications of the experts.
Contact New Direction Family Law
Valuing marital property is serious business. If you and your spouse have complex marital property, you need an attorney. At New Direction Family Law, we understand the intricacies of equitable distribution and obtaining expert appraisals that courts can rely on. Our attorneys work hard, operate with integrity, and provide tough legal representation. We serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Contact our office at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us online through our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law