At Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., our Lincolnton property division lawyers provide experienced and compassionate representation for individuals like you who are going through a divorce. We know property division is often among the most challenging and contentious issues. Let us help you protect what is important to you, and help you resolve these matters so you can move on with your life.
How Are Assets Divided in a Divorce in Lincolnton?
When a couple chooses to file an uncontested divorce, it generally means they agree on all aspects of their separation, including property division, alimony, and custody arrangements. In an uncontested divorce, there is no need for a court to intervene in the division of marital property.
Contested divorces are different. In a contested divorce, a couple typically cannot agree on how their assets should be divided and other matters. In these cases, the court will normally have to intervene and find a fair way to distribute property among the parties.
There are generally two ways the court can divide assets. One way is equitable distribution, and the other is community property. North Carolina follows the equitable distribution model.
What Does ‘Equitable Distribution’ Mean in a Lincolnton Divorce?
Equitable distribution means dividing assets and property between two parties in a way that is fair to each party. However, equitable division does not always mean an equal 50/50 split. There is a significant difference between what is fair and what is equal. North Carolina’s equitable distribution model attempts to divide all property and assets fairly based on each spouse’s contribution to the marriage.
Types of Assets Divided in a Divorce
North Carolina recognizes three categories of property in a divorce action. These categories are:
- Separate property
- Marital property
- Divisible property
Separate property is what each spouse brings with them into the marriage. In other words, it is property acquired before marriage. However, separate property can sometimes include gifts, bequests, or inheritance acquired by a spouse during marriage. In general, separate property is not subject to division during divorce.
On the other hand, marital property is assets, property, or debts each spouse acquires during the marriage. While separate property belongs to only one spouse, the marital property belongs to both spouses.
Finally, the divisible property is the appreciation or diminution in value of all marital property.
What Is Considered Marital Property?
Determining what counts as marital property can sometimes be challenging. Typically, property and assets you acquire during your marriage are marital property. Therefore, these assets can be divided between spouses during a divorce.
Common assets that may be distributed between spouses include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Pensions, stocks, and bonds
- Retirement accounts
- Employment benefits
- Insurance policies
- Household items
- Business interests
In some cases, separate property can become marital property when the separate property is commingled with marital property. For example, suppose one spouse used their inheritance to contribute to a family business or retirement account. What was separate property could now be considered marital property. Or, a spouse may own their home before marriage. However, if their partner contributes to renovations or improvements to the property during the marriage, that home may be considered marital property and therefore be subject to division.
What Factors Do Courts Consider When Determining Equitable Distribution of Property?
Equitable distribution seeks to distribute property fairly, but fair doesn’t always mean equal. The court will consider several factors to arrive at a fair distribution arrangement. Factors a court will examine include:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- Each spouse’s income
- How long the marriage lasted
- Each spouse’s age and health
- The value of assets and property
- The value of debts
- Each spouse’s financial need and overall economic circumstances
- Custody arrangements
- Tax and economic consequences of property division
A court may also consider what each spouse contributed to the marriage. For example, if one spouse put their career aspirations on hold to allow their partner to further their career or education, that could affect how a court views property distribution.
A spouse who quit their job to raise children or care for an ill parent may not have the same earning capacity as their spouse, but they contribute to the marriage in other ways. Every case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits.
What to Expect During Equitable Distribution
Dividing property in a state like North Carolina that recognizes an equitable distribution model can be tricky. There is not always an equal split. A North Carolina court will take the time to consider what each partner brought to the marriage and then attempt to untangle the couple’s property, assets, and debts to arrive at a fair distribution.
Be aware that a judge can only make a reasonable and fair decision based on evidence. If you are going through a divorce and want what is fair, you need experienced legal representation on your side. A Lincolnton property division attorney can guide you through the divorce asset division process and gather records and documents establishing your right to the marital property you deserve.
Expect the process to take some time. It can be complicated to unravel the web of marital assets acquired over years of marriage. At Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., we will always communicate where we are in the process and help you understand what to expect.
Contact Our Experienced Lincolnton Property Division Lawyers Today
When it comes to divorce, there is one universal truth: You never realize how many assets you’ve acquired until it is time to divide them. The Lincolnton property division lawyers at Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, P.L.L.C., are ready to advocate on your behalf to help protect the assets you care about.
Contact our Lincolnton office today to discuss your situation in detail with a knowledgeable member of our team.