Divorce laws vary widely from state to state. Here in North Carolina, the idea of equitable distribution is used when dividing property and assets during divorce proceedings. If a divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement through an uncontested divorce or mediation (voluntary or court-ordered), then a judge will determine how property will be divided after litigation proceedings. It is important to know that “equitable” does not mean “equal.” Many factors and considerations will be used to determine the final division of assets.
In North Carolina, marriage is seen as a shared partnership and both spouses have equal rights to marital and divisible property. Here are the three types of property used during equitable distribution proceedings:
- Marital property: This includes real property like a shared marital home and personal property like jewelry that was acquired during the marriage. It may also include intangible property like investments or benefits. Debts acquired during the marriage are also considered and divided.
- Divisible property: This type of property includes assets that must be modified or sold to be divided.
- Separate property: This includes property acquired prior to the marriage or a gift or inheritance received by only one spouse during the marriage. It is important to know that separate property may become marital property if it is used to purchase a marital home or other shared assets.
Equitable distribution requires a judge to carefully consider both past efforts and the future needs of both spouses. The duration of the marriage may also be considered, as well as any relevant child custody arrangements or special contributions of one spouse to the other’s career or education during the marriage.