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How Is Property Divided In A North Carolina Divorce?

house split with lawyer's hand going through the middle

In North Carolina, residents take pride in their work. The money they earn in exchange for their time and skills allows them to build capital and make purchases and investments that can greatly enhance their quality of life, as well as that of their families. When couples decide to marry, joining finances allows them to build wealth on a greater scale. However, when these couples elect to file for divorce, questions about this wealth are certain to arise.

The separation and divorce law in North Carolina has outlined a system of property distribution that the courts use in divorce cases. While your Raleigh property division attorney has been well versed in these laws, chances are the average North Carolina resident is not. Therefore, this article aims to provide general information that divorcing spouses in North Carolina should know about property distribution in their state.

Divorce Eligibility in North Carolina

To be eligible for a divorce in North Carolina, spouses need to have been separated for at least one year and a day. The term “separation” in this context means living in different homes, with at least one spouse intending for the separation to be permanent. In addition, either spouse must currently live in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing.

Understanding Equitable Distribution

There are many divorce cases where spouses’ incomes and overall financial situations are vastly different, and the divorce would lead to a drastically different quality of life for one or the other. In these cases, spouses should file for property division before the divorce is finalized. If they do not, they forever forfeit their right to property distribution, meaning each spouse only keeps assets that are in their name. 

Property in both spouses’ names will stay in both names, as will any joint debts. Because of the high-stakes circumstances surrounding property distribution in a divorce, many spouses in North Carolina choose to employ the services of a divorce attorney to ensure their rights are preserved.

In divorce cases, North Carolina law uses a system of property division known as equitable distribution. Under this system of laws, the courts will attempt to divide marital property equally. While the courts start by presuming a 50/50 split of property is equitable, there are many factors that can cause the courts to modify their overall distribution ratios. 

For example, if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, the pending divorce is likely to have a greater effect on the overall quality of life of the lower-earning spouse. This can lead the courts to adjust distribution totals. In addition, the overall nature of assets and debts of one or both spouses can impact what the divorce court views as “equitable”.

Types of Marital Property

In a North Carolina divorce case, the property falls into two main categories. According to the law, “marital property” is that which is eligible for distribution in a divorce, while “separate property” is a property that remains out of the conversation. Examples of separate property typically include any assets and debts that belonged to each spouse before marriage. That being said, if an asset acquired before marriage has significantly increased in value during the course of the marriage, it may be considered marital property.

The definition of marital property is more straightforward and includes any property acquired by a spouse after the marriage date. However, divorce attorneys will usually point out that exceptions such as gifts or inheritances can sometimes be excluded from being considered marital property.

North Carolina residents may be unaware that the third type of property exists as well: “Divisible property”. This type of property applies to any property acquired between the official date of separation and the finalization of the divorce. Depending on the conditions of the property and the arrangement, divisible property may or may not be eligible for distribution. As always, consultation with your divorce attorney will be your best bet here.

The Benefit of Professional Legal Counsel

In North Carolina, the divorce rate is 3.1 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants, which is higher than the national average. While the reasons for divorce can vary from mutually agreed-upon irreconcilable differences to more severe reasons such as abuse or mental health, the process of applying for and fulfilling a divorce in North Carolina almost always involves working with an experienced divorce attorney. A divorce attorney’s role is to explain to spouses what they can expect as court proceedings commence, and what work needs to be done before the case goes to court. 

For years, the attorneys at Triangle Divorce Lawyers have been helping spouses in and around Raleigh get through the divorce process as smoothly as possible. Contact Triangle Divorce Lawyers today for expert counsel you can trust.


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