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Property division in a North Carolina divorce

People who plan to divorce must deal with a number of issues. Who gets what in the split ranks as a major concern for many.

A basic outline of North Carolina's approach to property division can give a couple a starting point for considering goals and expectations throughout the divorce process. An experienced attorney can advise further and develop an optimal strategy for protecting a spouse's interests.

Equitable distribution

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. Rather than assuming each spouse has a 50 percent interest in all marital property, the court divides marital property in the way it deems most fair. In most cases, this typically works out to a 50/50 split or something very close to it. Rarely, the court may decide in favor of a less balanced division.

Marital property

The category of marital property includes most types of property either spouse acquires throughout the duration of the marriage until the date the couple separates.

Separate property

Most property acquired before marriage is considered separate but can become marital if the spouses do not take care to avoid commingling it with joint funds or assets. Gifts and bequests from third parties remain separate at all times, unless commingling occurs.

What affects division

Courts usually consider a set of statutory factors to determine a fair division. These include the spouses' earning capacities, health situations, child care obligations and relative contributions to the marriage, including nonfinancial contributions.

Only financial fault matters

In North Carolina, fault does not affect distribution except if the misconduct in question affected the marital finances. For example, a spouse who hides assets, wastes marital funds or otherwise engages in dishonest behavior may face penalties during the distribution process.

Debts

When speaking about the division of marital assets, one must keep in mind that this also means marital debt. Generally, debt incurred by either spouse may count as joint debt, barring certain exceptions.

Couples are free to agree to other ways of division

If the divorcing couple wants to pursue negotiation and agreement regarding division, the two parties may include any provisions they want. They do not have to apply the statutory factors the way the court would.

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