When a marriage is dissolved, the property and debt of the spouses has to be divided in a way that’s fair. This is called “equitable distribution.” Most property or debt is divided 50/50, regardless of which spouse’s name is on the title, deed, or account. However, there are many rules and exceptions.
North Carolina courts start with an assumption that a 50/50 division of “marital property” is fair. Marital property is any property acquired between the date of marriage and separation, except for inheritance, gifts, and some other exceptions. Marital property also includes any debts that benefited the marriage. For example, a car loan or mortgage benefits the marriage if it’s for a car or home that is marital property. If you have been married for a long time, most of your property and debt is probably marital.
Separate property is owned by an individual spouse rather than the marriage. It is exempt from needing to be divided amongst the spouses. Separate property includes anything (a) owned before the marriage (b) earned after separation or (c) inheritance and gifts. Also, once marital property is distributed to the spouses, it becomes each spouse’s separate property.
Divisible property is when marital property gains or loses value between the date of separation and the date the marital property is divided. Divisible property needs to be divided 50/50 if it is caused by passive market fluctuations. For example, investments in the stock market or real estate fluctuate in value routinely. If a spouse invests their personal labor after separation to improve something’s value, that spouse can claim that portion of its value.
This post offers a brief summary of how to divide property and debt in a divorce. For an in-depth, step-by-step instructional guide, download download our guide. Attorney David King can be reached at David@kinglawnc.com. If you have questions or complications to discuss, please schedule a consultation. You can also get a flat-fee quote for hiring King @ Law using our legal fees calculator.