Divorce can be devastating. Not only are you dealing with the loss of a relationship that you likely believed would last for a lifetime, but there is also the issue of assets. You should not attempt to divide property obtained during the marriage alone. The Raleigh NC family attorneys at Fresh Start Family Law can help you!
What does property division mean?
In a North Carolina divorce, the parties involved in a divorce are generally each awarded half of the assets and half of the debts that accrued during the marriage. The legal term for dividing up marital assets and debts is “equitable distribution.” There are many exceptions to this general statement and as such you will need to discuss the particulars in your specific case with a North Carolina divorce attorney to determine what your potential settlement may be.
In North Carolina, when spouses divorce, their marital property and debts are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, between them. Applying this rule, known as equitable distribution, involves a sometimes complicated process of identifying what property and debt is marital in nature. Under North Carolina equitable distribution, the spouses are usually each awarded half of the marital property and debt. However, the court is sometimes required to make unequal divisions.
Defining marital and separate property
In North Carolina, property owned by a married couple is divided into three categories:
- Marital property — This is all property acquired during marriage and before the couple separates, including physical property (like houses and vehicles) and intangible property (like benefits, retirment and pensions), except separate property.
- Divisible property — Changes in the value of marital property between separation and distribution are also usually subject to equitable distribution. Examples are interest and dividends on marital property and bonuses or commissions that a spouse earned before separation but did not receive until afterward. Also included is property acquired after separation due to a spouse’s efforts prior to separation.
- Separate property — Property that one spouse owned before marriage is not subject to equitable distribution. Separate property includes that which is acquired during marriage but intended for one spouse alone (such as gifts and inheritance), assets acquired in exchange for separate property and income earned or assets received by either spouse after separation.
The same definitions and rules are used to identify the spouses’ debts, which are subject to equitable distribution according to the same formulas.
Raleigh divorce attorneys help divorcing clients with equitable distribution
Exploring alternatives to court-ordered property division
In many cases, the parties can resolve property division through mediation, an informal process guided by a neutral third party. In North Carolina and prior to trial the parties will be required to attempt mediation. Mediation is an informal process allowing parties to work with a neutral third party (the “mediator”) to attempt to negotiate and settle all terms of their conflict. Communications and documents in the mediation process are generally confidential and cannot be used if the case eventually goes to trial. Parties can propose and agree to creative settlements that could not otherwise be ordered by a court during litigation.
If a settlement cannot be reached, and the case goes to trial, the court will identify value and distribute all marital and divisible assets and debts. Separate property is not divided, but remains with the spouse who possesses it.
Why seek Raleigh NC family attorneys for help?
Equitable division can mean liquidation of property so that the court can more fairly distribute assets. You need a lawyer, however, to help you determine if such is the best route for your situation.
Fresh Start Family Law is a family law firm in Raleigh committed to its clients. Our lawyers work to make the process of property division less arduous for you and your family. Call to schedule a consultation today!