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Effective counsel for division of marital property in North Carolina

Raleigh divorce attorneys help divorcing clients with equitable distribution

In North Carolina, when spouses divorce, their marital property and debts are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, between them. Applying this rule, known as equitable distribution, involves a sometimes complicated process of identifying what property and debt as marital in nature. At Hatch, Little & Bunn, L.L.P. in Raleigh, we have practiced domestic relations law for more than 60 years and make it a tradition to give close attention to our individual clients’ needs and to help them secure a just share of their property.

Defining marital and separate property

In North Carolina, property owned by a married couple is divided into three categories:

  • Marital property — This is all property acquired during marriage and before the couple separates, including physical property (like houses and vehicles) and intangible property (like benefits, pensions or even a business), except separate property.
  • Divisible property — Changes in the value of marital property between separation and distribution are also usually subject to equitable distribution. Examples are interest and dividends on marital property and bonuses or commissions that a spouse earned before separation but did not receive until afterward. Also included is property acquired after separation due to a spouse’s efforts prior to separation.
  • Separate property — Property that one spouse owned before marriage is not subject to equitable distribution. Separate property includes that which is acquired during marriage but intended for one spouse alone (such as gifts and inheritance), assets acquired in exchange for separate property and income earned or assets received by either spouse after separation.

The same definitions and rules are used to identify the spouses’ debts, which are subject to equitable distribution according to the same formulas.

Exploring alternatives to court-ordered property division

Under North Carolina equitable distribution, the spouses are usually each awarded half of the marital property and debt. However, the court is sometimes required to make unequal divisions. In many cases, the parties can resolve property division through mediation, an informal process guided by a neutral third party. Communications and documents in the mediation process are generally confidential and cannot be used if the case eventually goes to trial. Parties can propose and agree to creative settlements that could not otherwise be ordered by a court during litigation.

If a settlement cannot be reached, and the case goes to trial, the court will identify value and distribute all marital and divisible assets and debts. Separate property is not divided, but remains with the spouse who possesses it.

Helping you protect your property rights in divorce

The experienced divorce lawyers at Hatch, Little & Bunn, L.L.P. are skilled at all aspects of North Carolina equitable distribution. As part of the process of preparing you for a divorce proceeding, we will meet with you to review what property you and your spouse have, how the court is likely to classify that property, and what factors are likely to affect its equitable distribution. As appropriate, we will seek mediation and also negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to settle disputed issues. If you do not accept the settlement, we will work diligently to secure the best equitable distribution order we can in court.

Serving Raleigh clients for more than 50 years

Hatch, Little & Bunn, L.L.P. has provided comprehensive legal services to parties in divorce proceedings in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Research Triangle Park, Wake County and throughout North Carolina for more than half a century. Call 919-899-9827 or contact us online to schedule your consultation at our Raleigh office.


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