Understanding How Assets Get Divided In Divorce
The division of assets and property between separating spouses is often a point of conflict in a divorce. Generally speaking, any property or debt acquired during the marriage is considered “marital property” and is subject to be included in the overall division of assets. When property and assets are divided, the split is supposed to be an equitable distribution, whether done amicably or by court order.
If your divorce is amicable, you and your spouse may agree to a plan to divide assets – real estate, retirement accounts, investments, personal property – and present the proposal to the court for approval as part of your separation agreement. Whether your divorce is amicable or contested, you need to be sure that your financial interests are protected as you and your spouse divide property and assets.
The divorce lawyers at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks have extensive experience negotiating the division of assets and property for divorcing clients in North Carolina. We can ensure that the property distribution agreement that you and your spouse come to is equitable, meets your needs, and protects your interests. We can represent you in court proceedings when the Family Law Court considers your plan for the equitable distribution of assets and exclusion of personal property.
Contact the divorce attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks in Raleigh, N.C., before you agree to a plan that divides bank accounts, real estate, and retirement savings as part of a separation and divorce. Phone 919-661-9000 or contact us online to discuss how we can ensure your rights are protected and your needs are met.
Identifying and Dividing Marital Assets in North Carolina
North Carolina law requires the equitable division of marital assets in a divorce. If a divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement, the court will step in. Preferably, you and your spouse, each represented by your own lawyers, can come to an agreement on these steps:
- Identification. Your and your spouse’s assets and debt as of your date of separation (when you stopped living together under one roof) need to be inventoried and listed.
- Classification. Most property obtained between your wedding date and separation will be considered marital property. Property owned before the marriage or that was inherited by or given to one spouse is considered separate property. Increases and decreases in the value of the marital property such as financial accounts or investment property and property received after the date of separation that was acquired as a result of the marital efforts are treated as property subject to division. Divisible property is subject to equitable distribution as part of the marital estate.
- Valuation. The next step is to determine the value of your assets and debts. The value may be easily determined, such as what is listed for the bank or investment accounts. Pieces of real estate property may require some type of appraisal. This might be a measure of the property’s fair market value – what it would sell for with no pressure on either party – or the opinion of a real estate appraiser qualified to testify in court.
- Distribution. In the end, the Family Law Court will decide which party will retain each piece of property or assume which debt. This is to be an equitable distribution, which means a fair split but not necessarily an equal division.
The court has the authority to decide the division of property and assets. If you and your spouse present a separation and property settlement agreement to the court that has a plan to divide assets, however, the court will likely consider approving it unless it is obviously unfair to one party or the court learns of some other problem with how the agreement was drawn.
If it is possible to negotiate a separation agreement that both spouses sign, you will have more input on important decisions regarding the dissolution of your marriage instead of letting a family law court make decisions for you. It is not required, but when there is a clear plan in place, it’s easier to avoid disputes as your divorce heads toward being finalized.
What Factors are Weighed When Property Is Divided In a Divorce?
When a contentious divorce comes before a Family Law judge and it is up to the judge to divide the marital property and assets, North Carolina law provides some factors to consider.
Factors to consider when dividing marital property in North Carolina:
- Length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Each spouse’s income
- Each spouse’s education
- One spouse’s contribution to the other’s education
- Support obligations from prior marriages
- Whether the spouse with child custody needs to own or possess the marital home and household effects while the children are underage
- The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property and divisible property
- The difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice
- Any equitable interest in property, such as a business that the spouse may claim due to time, effort, support, or other sweat equity
- The expectation of a pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights
- Tax consequences to each party if the marital and divisible property had been sold or liquidated on the date of valuation
- Specific efforts made by a spouse to acquire, develop or expand property
- Actions by either party to neglect, devalue or waste marital assets during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution
Each of these factors and how they should or should not affect the division of marital assets is open to the judge’s interpretation. The judge also has the authority to weigh any other factor the court finds to be appropriate for consideration.
In North Carolina, only financial considerations affect decisions about property and asset distribution. If one spouse had an affair, that in itself would not necessarily affect the division of property. However, because financial fault is relevant, if the cheating spouse bought their paramour a car with marital funds, it would be a relevant consideration to the equitable distribution of property.
Safeguarding Your Interests During Asset Division in Divorce
As your attorneys in a contentious divorce, Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks would investigate to try to develop an accurate picture of your spouse’s assets as well as any financial fault that should be considered by the court. We would identify and document the value of personal property, real estate, financial holdings, and other assets accumulated during the marriage. When necessary, we work with specialized investigators, such as forensic accountants, who can uncover hidden assets or missing money.
We would ensure that the court understood your abilities and needs and your spouse’s capability to either assist you or to meet their own needs and obligations without your assistance. We would have documentation and verbal arguments ready to ensure the equitable distribution of marital property is reasonable and does not cause you financial harm.
When necessary, we would obtain a temporary injunction before going to court to prevent the disappearance or conversion of property in your spouse’s possession before the court takes up your divorce case. If one party is found to have concealed assets, the court may issue sanctions, such as requiring the party acting improperly to pay the other spouse’s legal fees or requiring revision of the asset division agreements.
We would act on your behalf after having listened to you to get a thorough understanding of your needs from a divorce settlement. We will help you consider the future implications of decisions regarding your separation and divorce, including the tax consequences related to the division of marital property and financial assets. Our goal is to provide legal guidance to help you make well-informed, forward-looking decisions as you go through a divorce.
Contact an Experienced NC Asset Division Attorney
Hiring a divorce attorney experienced with property and asset division in North Carolina is a smart move to protect your financial interests and rights. When you select Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks to represent you, our attorneys will put our experience to work for you.
Our state-of-the-art case tracking system allows our team to effectively handle each client’s case, so nothing falls through the cracks. We believe in the importance of personalized client service. When you work with an asset division attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks in Raleigh, NC, you’ll receive the attentive legal service you deserve.
Our family law attorneys devote their entire practice to family legal services and divorce matters in North Carolina, including the distribution of marital property and assets. We will be ready to schedule a confidential consultation immediately. To ensure that your interests are well protected in a North Carolina divorce, call us at (919) 661-9000, or fill out our online form today. Our staff members are fluent in both English and Spanish for your convenience.