When a marriage comes to an end, one of the most challenging aspects separating couples face is the division of their property. Many couples don’t know where to begin. You might not even know how your state handles property division.
In North Carolina, a process known as equitable division handles property division during a divorce. Equitable division means that your assets are divided as fairly as possible based on certain factors. Those factors include everything from your current financial status to how much you provided during your marriage.
Equitable division does not always guarantee a 50-50 split. This is where you might become worried. You might wonder what you will be able to keep and what you will have to divide with your spouse.
Before you start panicking, it’s important to understand the two types of property every married couple has:
- Separate property: Just as it sounds, separate property includes the assets that you own that solely belong to you. Separate property are items you purchased before your marriage, such as an old car or furniture. It can also include inheritances, personal debts, or a business – as long as your spouse never profited from or contributed to that business.
- Community property: Also called marital property, community property includes all the assets you accumulated during your marriage. Houses, cars, furniture, income, mortgages and other shared assets are all eligible for property division upon your divorce.
In equitable division states like North Carolina, only community property is eligible for division. That means any of your personal, separate property will continue to be yours, and your spouse cannot claim them during the divorce.
Some separate property can become marital property even if you didn’t mean for it to happen. For example, if you inherited a sum of money during your marriage, but you added it to a joint bank account, it may become marital property as your spouse had equal access to it.
If you’re confused about your assets, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney. They can help you determine which assets you get to keep and how you can work with your spouse to divide your community assets as well.