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North Carolina Property Division
Who will divide our property?

If you and your spouse are able to agree about the division of your property, then your arrangement will be documented with a separation agreement. If you are unable to agree, it will be necessary for you to go to court. The court will not decide your property distribution case for a period of time as the litigation process moves forward. During that time, the individual with possession of the property will have the use of that property unless a judge issues an order directing otherwise.

How will my property be divided by the court?

In North Carolina the process of dividing the property and debts of a marriage is called Equitable Distribution. Equitable Distribution is a three step process conducted by the court when spouses are unable to divide property on their own. The first step in the process is "identification". The court must determine which property is marital and which is separate. Separate property is property owned before marriage, inherited property and gifts. Separate property used to purchase jointly held real estate becomes marital property. Most of the remaining property is designated as marital property. The second step is "valuation". This is the assignment of a fair market value to each piece of marital property. Frequently, appraisers and other experts assist in this step of the process. The fair market value is the amount that would be paid by a willing buyer to a willing seller. The final step is "distribution". The court will distribute the property equally unless there are factors present in your case which indicate that an equal division would not be equitable.

What factors are considered by a judge?

Among the factors considered are:

  • The income, property and debts of each party,
  • Support obligations for prior marriage,
  • The length of the marriage and age and health of the parties,
  • Custody of children,
  • Expectation of retirement benefits which are separate property,
  • Efforts made by each spouse to acquire the property,
  • Contributions of one spouse to the education of the other spouse,
  • Direct contributions to increased value of separate property,
  • Liquid or non-liquid nature of property,
  • Difficulty in valuing interest in a business,
  • Tax consequences,
  • Actions taken by either party to preserve or waste marital assets, and
  • Other factors.


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The court applies the North Carolina child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support. The Court may vary from the guidelines when it finds by the greater weight of the evidence that their application would either not meet, or would exceed, the reasonable needs of the child.
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