Equitable Distribution in North Carolina

Equitable Distribution in North Carolina

Courts must first identify property as separate, marital, or divisible.  Separate property is property acquired prior to marriage, through an inheritance, or as a gift from someone other than a spouse.  Spouses generally have no interest in the separate property of the other spouse, as long as it has been segregated and maintains its separate identity.  Marital property is any property acquired from date of marriage until date of last separation, regardless of title.  Divisible property is property which is part separate and part marital.

Courts then must value the property and debt.  Equitable Distribution calls for the judge to fairly divide the property between the spouses, using the following factors, which are set out in the North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-20 (c), which provides:

There shall be an equal division by using net value of marital property and net value of divisible property unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable. If the court determines that an equal division is not equitable, the court shall divide the marital property and divisible property equitably. The court shall consider all of the following factors under this subsection:

(1)        The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.

(2)        Any obligation for support arising out of a prior marriage.

(3)        The duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties.

(4)        The need of a parent with custody of a child or children of the marriage to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects.

(5)        The expectation of pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property.

(6)        Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services, or lack thereof, as a spouse, parent, wage earner or homemaker.

(7)        Any direct or indirect contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse.

(8)        Any direct contribution to an increase in value of separate property which occurs during the course of the marriage.

(9)        The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property and divisible property.

(10)      The difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession, and the economic desirability of retaining such asset or interest, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

(11)      The tax consequences to each party, including those federal and State tax consequences that would have been incurred if the marital and divisible property had been sold or liquidated on the date of valuation. The trial court may, however, in its discretion, consider whether or when such tax consequences are reasonably likely to occur in determining the equitable value deemed appropriate for this factor.

(11a)    Acts of either party to maintain, preserve, develop, or expand; or to waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property or divisible property, or both, during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution.

(11b)    In the event of the death of either party prior to the entry of any order for the distribution of property made pursuant to this subsection:

a.         Property passing to the surviving spouse by will or through intestacy due to the death of a spouse.

b.         Property held as tenants by the entirety or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship passing to the surviving spouse due to the death of a spouse.

c.         Property passing to the surviving spouse from life insurance, individual retirement accounts, pension or profit-sharing plans, any private or governmental retirement plan or annuity of which the decedent controlled the designation of beneficiary (excluding any benefits under the federal social security system), or any other retirement accounts or contracts, due to the death of a spouse.

d.         The surviving spouse’s right to claim an “elective share” pursuant to G.S. 30-3.1 through G.S. 30-33, unless otherwise waived.

(12)      Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.