PROPERTY DIVISION BY EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION
So your marriage has ended and you are headed towards a divorce. You have lots of questions about who will get the house, how the bills will get paid, and whether you get to keep your retirement. In North Carolina, this process of dividing up marital assets and bills is called “equitable distribution.”
WHAT IS EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION?
Equitable distribution is the process by which your marital property and debts are divided in a divorce. “Property” includes the house, the cars, the bank accounts, the furniture, and all of the other assets. If the asset or debt is part of the marriage, then it gets divided between the two of you. If the asset or debt is separate, then it stays with the person it belongs to and is not split. You and your spouse may come to an agreement on how to divide the property and debts owed; if you are unable to agree, the court will make the decision for you. If you are able to come to an agreement on how to divide your property, you may have an attorney draft a separation agreement, or a consent order signed by a judge. If you need the court to divide your assets, you must file a claim for equitable distribution BEFORE you get divorced. Whether you work out a division of property by consent or through the court system, dividing your debts and property in a divorce is a four-step process:
- List all the property and all the debts that you and your spouse have;
- Determine if each one is marital or separate (more about that below);
- Value each item as of the date you and your spouse separated;
- Distribute each item to either you or your spouse, usually on an equal 50/50 basis.