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 protect spouses from this behavior. The first step to utilizing these protections is to file a suit for equitable distribution.

Injunctive Relief

Equitable Distribution is the method in which North Carolina Courts divide marital property when married couples separate with the intention to divorce. Once a lawsuit is filed, an attorney can present a motion to the court for an injunction against the other spouse “to prevent the disappearance, waste or conversion of property alleged to be marital property, divisible property, or separate property of the party seeking relief.” In the alternative, a court can require the offending party to offer a bond or assurance to insure the other spouse’s property interest.

In addition to an injunction or a bond, the court can require an offending spouse to pay the court costs and attorney’s fees that the harmed spouse had to pay to regain possession of or protect the property.

An Equitable Distribution Accounting for the Disappearance, Waste, or Conversion of Property

In addition, a court can consider the destruction of property when reaching its final determination on the division of marital property. Marital property is generally all property attained after the date of marriage until the date of separation. In an equitable distribution proceeding, the presumption is that this property should be divided equally between the couple, unless there is evidence to show that the court should stray from a 50/50 split. One of the factors that a court can consider when making an equitable but unequal division includes “[a]cts of either party […] to waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property or divisible property, or both, during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution.”

Contact New Direction Family Law

Figuring out how to divide property when separating is incredibly complex and can be a highly adversarial experience. At New Direction Family Law, our attorneys have years of legal experience and have seen equitable distribution cases of all levels of size and complexity. We pride ourselves in taking a methodical, thoughtful, and comprehensive approach to make sure your legal interests are served. Let us stand with you. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us online through our website.