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 marriage and the ability of the other spouse to attain financial success during the marriage.
Unfortunately, while the prospect of an equitable distribution provides for relief near the end of legal proceedings, this does little to address the short term problems for the spouse who makes less and has less access to resources.
This is where an “interim distribution” comes into play. The North Carolina General Statutes governing equitable distribution allows for a court to enter appropriate orders as follows:
“Unless good cause is shown that there should not be an interim distribution, the court may, at any time after an action for equitable distribution has been filed and prior to the final judgment of equitable distribution, enter orders declaring what is separate property and may also enter orders dividing part of the marital property, divisible property or debt, or marital debt between the parties. The partial distribution may provide for a distributive award and may also provide for a distribution of marital property, marital debt, divisible property, or divisible debt. Any such orders entered shall be taken into consideration at trial and proper credit given.”
In other words, at any time after legal proceedings regarding equitable distribution are initiated, a party can ask a court to for a partial distribution of marital property. For example, a court may decide that one spouse can stay in the marital residence while the other party pays the mortgage. Interim distribution can provide some much needed relief and stability until the dust settles and the additional issues of spousal support and/or child support can be addressed.
New Direction Family Law
If you are considering separation or you have recently separated, it is in your interest to speak with an attorney. You have legal rights that you can exercise to provide you both temporary financial relief during the year it takes to wait for a divorce. Contact New Direction Family Law today. We will listen to you and provide you with relevant, accurate legal advice so that you can decide how you want to move forward. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law