Divorce in North Carolina: What to Know Dissipation of Assets

Divorce is complicated. When you end a marriage, you and your spouse need to disentangle your lives. Among other things, this means sorting out your finances. North Carolina’s divorce law calls for an equitable distribution of marital assets. Each spouse deserves their fair share of the property.

This raises an important question: What happens if my spouse is wasting assets before a divorce? It is known as dissipation of assets—and a remedy is available. Here, our Monroe family law attorneys explain what to know about the dissipation of assets and divorce in North Carolina.

Defining Dissipation of Assets in a North Carolina Divorce

In North Carolina, the term dissipation of marital assets is used broadly to refer to any improper waste, abuse, misuse, or transfer of marital property to a third party. To qualify as dissipation, the conduct must have occurred immediately prior to a separation or while an equitable distribution is still pending. Some notable examples of actions that have been deemed dissipation of assets in North Carolina include:

  • Substantial gambling losses;
  • Use of assets support a drug/alcohol addiction;
  • Any funds used in support of an extramarital affair;
  • Unreasonable spending—including racking up credit card debt; and
  • Fraudulent transfers to third-party individuals or institutions;

North Carolina Law: Waste or Misuse of Property May Justify an Unequal Distribution

North Carolina is an equitable property distribution state. Under North Carolina law (NC General Statutes § 50-20), a court will divide a divorcing couple’s marital property in a fair manner. State law presumes that an even (50-50 split) should be used as a baseline assumption. From there, the court can access the specific circumstances of the marriage/divorce to determine if principles of equitable distribution require an uneven split. Notably, NC General Statutes § 50-20 (C)(11a) clearly states that an uneven distribution of assets may be appropriate on the grounds of one party’s “waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property or divisible property, or both, during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution.”

The Bottom Line: If you are getting a divorce and your spouse has wasted or abused marital funds close to separation or while equitable distribution is pending that is a relevant issue for the purposes of property division in North Carolina. That waste/abuse can come out of their share on the grounds of dissipation of assets. You may be entitled to a greater than 50-50 share of the marital property as a remedy for your spouse’s improper conduct.

Speak to a Family Law Attorneys in Union County, NC

At Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP, our North Carolina family lawyers have the professional expertise that you can trust. If you have any questions or concerns about the dissipation of assets, we are more than ready to help. Get in touch with us by phone or send us a direct message for your fully private initial appointment. We provide divorce and family law representation throughout the region, including in Monroe, Indian Trail, Waxhaw, Matthews, Mint Hill, and Unionville.