When you file for divorce in North Carolina, you must achieve a settlement agreement with your spouse regarding numerous issues. A primary concern is how the court will split your marital assets and debts between you and your ex. This state operates under equitable property guidelines. Many people misunderstand this term, thinking it means the court will equally (50/50) divide marital property. This is not the case, and it’s critical that you understand the difference and are aware of property division rules before heading to court.
Equitable property division means that the judge in your case will determine a fair division of marital assets, as well as a fair portion of any debt that exists at the time of your divorce that you incurred during your marriage. Fair does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split. The judge will take many factors into consideration before deciding.
Marriage longevity, income, individual financial contribution and more
The following list explains some of the issues a family court judge will review to help determine who gets what in a divorce and how the court will apportion liabilities:
- The judge will want to know how long you were married to your spouse.
- Did you both contribute financially to the household?
- What are the individual needs of each spouse?
- Is one spouse more employable or educated than the other?
These issues can influence the court’s decisions concerning property division. If you have children, their needs are relevant to the case, as well.
Full disclosure is necessary to achieve a fair property division settlement
If either spouse is dishonest when disclosing assets and liabilities, a judge cannot issue a fair decision in a divorce. North Carolina law requires full disclosure from both spouses. This aspect of divorce can become complicated and contentious if one of the spouses is trying to deceive the other, as well as the court. For example, there have been many cases where a spouse hides assets to keep them from being subject to property division proceedings.
Do not rush to sign settlement papers if you’re not certain that the suggested property division agreement is lawful and fair. You can ask questions, and you can negotiate changes, if necessary. Once you sign legal documents, however, and the court issues approval and executes orders, both you and your ex have an obligation to adhere to the terms, no matter what. Whether yours is a high-net-worth divorce or more basic, you have a right to a fair settlement and can enlist outside support if you believe your spouse is trying to tilt the scales in his or her own favor.