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Does North Carolina’s Equitable Distribution Law Mean the Value of Marital Assets Will Be Split Evenly?

Dividing marital assets in a divorce can be a complex and contentious process. In North Carolina, the equitable distribution principle governs the division of property acquired during the marriage when parties are not able to agree on a settlement. This means that while the court works off a presumption that the value of marital assets should be split evenly, a judge is authorized to give one spouse a greater share if they believe that is the fairer outcome. 

Regardless of which spouse acquired a specific asset during the course of a marriage, it usually becomes part of the divisible marital estate during a divorce. Exceptions can exist when the parties have a contrary prenuptial agreement in place, or the asset is a gift or inheritance received by only one spouse. Some of the factors that a judge considers during an equitable distribution analysis include the following: 

  • Income and earning potential — Disparities in income and earning potential between spouses are carefully reviewed. A long-term stay-at-home spouse might not have the ability to maintain their marital standard of living, so they could receive a greater share of the marital estate as opposed to their high-earning partner. 
  • Contributions to the marriage — Both financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage are considered. This includes contributions as a homemaker or support provided for a spouse’s education or career advancement. For example, someone who made it possible for their husband or wife to complete medical school could be given a larger amount in the divorce in light of the fact that their spouse will benefit from their contribution for years to come.
  • Custodial arrangements — If a divorcing couple shares one or more minor children, custody arrangements may influence the distribution of assets to ensure the well-being of the children and the custodial parent.

Numerous other factors are listed in North Carolina’s equitable distribution law, and judges also have the option to consider any other information they deem to be relevant. The court can only consider economic factors, however, and generally marital fault does not affect the distribution of assets. You might seek a larger portion of the marital estate than your husband or wife if one of these circumstances exist, for example:

  • Acts of either party to maintain, preserve, develop or expand; or to waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution. 
  • The duration of the marriage and the age and mental health of both parties. 
  • The income, property and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective. 

Each situation is unique, so your first step if you have a question about marital property division is to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney. The Moore Law Office, PLLC in Asheville provides personalized guidance and advocacy to North Carolina clients in equitable distribution matters and other aspects of the divorce process. You can reach us by calling 828-333-4796 or contacting us online.