Division of Debt and Assets in Divorce in North Carolina

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Whether you’re going through a divorce or you and your long-time partner have decided to go your separate ways, the division of your assets is often one of the hardest issues to resolve. Most couples accumulate property together like their homes, vacation property, cars, art, and more.

It isn’t unusual for these assets to be in both individual’s names. But when it comes time to part ways, the question arises: Who takes what? Many couples work this out themselves. North Carolina property division in a divorce can be simple when the spouses are in agreement. But, in some cases, people don’t agree and then it can be helpful to have a divorce lawyer during the process of settling how assets are split.

The rights you have to specific property can depend on whether you’re legally married, when it was purchased and by whom, and if it was a gift. If you’re legally married and seeking a divorce, you have the right to request an equitable distribution of the marital estate.

An experienced North Carolina family law attorney like Jonathan Breeden can explain what this right entails and how you should approach the matter in court and with your spouse. After helping individuals through the turmoil of divorce for more than 19years, Jonathan Breeden understands you need someone who can represent you both with compassion and a fierce determination to protect your rights.

How are assets and debts divided in North Carolina?

Equitable Division in North Carolina

Equitable distribution in North Carolina means the court will review your assets and depts in a divorce, decide what is fair , and divide your property accordingly between both spouses. However, this does not mean the split will be 50/50.

There are situations where one party ina marriage should be responsible for paying more of the debt in a marriage or or leave their marriage with a greater share of the assets. As a result, the court will apply a set of factors to evaluate your circumstances and needs to form an arrangement that it considers reasonable.

Property Division in a Divorce

A claim for equitable distribution of property arises when the parties cannot come to an agreement regarding their property on their own. When spouses determine the division of assets and debts themselves, it’s referred to as a property settlement. If a legitimate property settlement is entered into, there is no need for an equitable distribution order by a court.

The distribution of property is separate from the divorce proceedings, and in many cases is finalized before the divorce is official. Though an action for equitable distribution can be finalized following a divorce, the initial claim must be made before the end of the marriage. Once the marriage is over, neither spouse has the right to ask for equitable distribution anymore.

You can file a claim for equitable distribution in court any time after you and your spouse separate, though some people ask for it at the same time as when they officially seek a divorce.

If you’re worried about what could happen to property during the separation, you may need to file a claim earlier than you can ask for a divorce. You can seek injunctive relief or temporary orders at the same time to ensure property isn’t sold or doesn’t happen to disappear before it can be included in the marital estate and divided.

Speaking with a skilled North Carolina divorce attorney like Jonathan Breeden about your fears may be your best course of action. He understands the many nightmare scenarios that can arise during a separation and divorce, and he knows ways to protect you, your property, and your business or financial interests.

Types of Property to Divide

North Carolina classifies property in a divorce as either:

Marital property is all property acquired or earned during the marriage.
Divisible property includes marital assets or debts that change in value or income received after the separation.
Separate property is any property owned by either spouse before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance.

In a divorce, the most common property to divide include homes, pensions, retirement income, vehicles, and jewelry. Marital debts are also classifies as either marital, divisible, or separate, and separated accordingly.

How the Court Divides Property & Debts

After you request an equitable distribution in court, a judge will take three steps to determine how to divide the property between you and your spouse.

Identification and Classification
First, the judge must determine what counts as marital property, which is often referred to as identification and classification. He or she will determine each asset and debt and then apply the statutory definition of marital property.

Generally speaking, marital property will include assets and debts you acquired during the marriage. You can’t rely merely on titles to determine whether the property is marital or not. For instance, a car in one person’s name does not mean that the car isn’t marital property if the car was purchased during the marriage. However, property purchased before the marriage or inherited by an individual is his or hers alone.

Gifts given to each other during the marriage may be marital or separate property. A gift is an individual’s property if that intention was clear at the time it was given.

There can be property that’s classified as both marital and separate. In these situations, it’s important to have an attorney who understands North Carolina case law. You may have to fight for something if you believe it should be yours alone.

Second, the judge will provide a net value for the marital estate as of the date of separation. In general, the net value is the market value of the property minus any debts.

Ruling on Distribution
Third, the judge will rule on the distribution of the marital assets and debts using his or her best judgment. North Carolina law lays out more than a dozen factors the judge must take into consideration in determining an equitable split, such as:

  • The income and liabilities of each individual at the time the property division would be effective
  • An individual’s support obligations from a previous marriage
  • The needs of any children involved and the custodial parent
  • The tax consequences
  • The liquidity of the marital property
  • Any attempts an individual made to protect or to neglect marital property

The best case scenario is that the spouses and their attorneys can sit down and come to an agreement that’s fair to each person. But when that isn’t possible, one of the parties can ask the court to intervene and offer an equitable remedy.

How an Attorney Can Help

Attorney Jonathan Breeden understands divorce is complicated enough without fighting over who keeps the house, car, or family heirlooms. In many cases, a significant number of assets are involved and whether each is a part of the marital estate may be questionable.

Instead of fighting for what you believe to be yours alone, have Jonathan Breeden by your side.

Going through all your property and debts can be an extremely meticulous and grueling process. Mistakes can also be costly and end with one spouse receiving more or less than what’s right. Since you are starting a new chapter in your life, it is critical to exit your marriage with a fair share of what you helped build and limit what you are responsible for. An experienced attorney can handle this for you and ensure nothing is left out.

Contact Breeden Law Office

Jonathan Breeden has more than 19 years of practical legal experience earned by helping individuals and families with divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, and other legal matters. He serves clients in Johnston and Harnett counties, including in the communities of Raleigh, Garner, Angier, Clayton, Smithfield, and Cameron. North Carolina property division can be complicated, but Jonathan has the skill and experience to help you get fair outcome and to protect your financial future as you move forward with your life.

Call Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Call Breeden Law Office today:

Call (919) 661-4970

Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden