For divorcing couples, equitable distribution may be one of the most complex steps in the process. In North Carolina, one or both spouses should file for equitable distribution with a court before the dissolution is final. That way, they can guard their right to court-ordered distribution of marital property.

In North Carolina, equitable distribution doesn’t always mean that assets will be divided equally between the spouses. In fact, the term equitable is used to mean fair instead of equal. While equal is presumed to be equitable, either party can argue to the court about being entitled to more than 50% of the property.

Therefore, if you want to preserve your right to a fair property division, you should consult an experienced attorney. Numerous variables and nuances come into play in classifying and determining the value of assets. Contact a Monroe NC Equitable Distribution and Property Settlement Lawyer today for an initial consultation.

What is Equitable Distribution?

Equitable distribution is simply the process of dividing the assets and debts a couple acquired during their marriage. The process is derived from the notion that a marriage is a shared partnership. So, each spouse in the relationship has an equal right to accrued marital property which is in existence on the parties’ date of separation.

The process is conducted by the court in three steps:

  • Classification: The court determines which property is marital or separate
  • Valuation: Here, each piece of the marital property is assigned a fair market value
  • Distribution: The court distributes the marital property equitably


The marital property is the real and personal property acquired by either or both spouses during the course of their marriage and owned by either or both on the date of separation.

On the other hand, separate property is any property that was owned by either spouse before they entered the marriage. Any property that was gifted to or inherited by either spouse during the marriage from a third party is also separate. The court can only divide marital property. Separate property does not get divided with the other party.

Will a Judge or Jury Divide the Marital Property?

For most equitable distribution cases, divorcing couples are required to attend a mediation to see whether they can agree. If they fail to reach an agreement, they can turn to litigation. Only a judge can determine how the property will be distributed as there is no right to a jury trial on these issues.

How Do Judges Determine How to Divide the Property?

The North Carolina law strongly presumes that an equal or even distribution of property to both parties is equitable. But, sometimes, a judge might decide to divide the property another way in order to maintain equitability. For such situations, detailed fact findings are necessary and the judge must also take into account a wide range of factors.

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