Equitable Distribution is the legal means by which marital property and marital debts are divided at the end of a marriage. This process is commonly referred to as property distribution. This can be done through a separation agreement and negotiation of the parties, or by a judge in contested litigation.
Marital property and marital debts can take many forms, all of which need to be addressed at the end of marriage. Some common forms of martial property include:
- Real estate
- Automobiles and other vehicles
- Bank Accounts and Certificates of Deposit
- Retirement Accounts
- Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, and Investment Accounts
- Household goods and furnishings
- Business Interests
Similarly, marital debts can take many forms. Some common forms of marital debt include:
- Mortgage loans
- Automobile Loans
- Credit Card Debt
- Personal Loans
- 401(k) Loans
- Student Loans
- Tax Debt
Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20 et seq., there is a starting presumption of a fifty-fifty distribution of marital assets and debts. However, there are a number of factors that can alter the distribution of property and/or debts in favor of one spouse or the other.
It is necessary to gather extensive financial information to evaluate claims for equitable distribution. This documentation includes:
- Deeds and Deeds of Trust for Real Estate
- Mortgage Loan Billing Statements
- Automobile Loan Billing Statements
- Retirement Account Statements
- Credit Card and other Loan Billing Statements
- Paystubs/Pay Advices
- Tax Returns
- Financial Affidavits
- Details regarding monthly financial expenses
- Bank Statements
The more information that you can gather yourself and provide to us, the less time the attorney will spend on compiling this information, and instead can focus on the legal analysis and advice for your case.
Marital property and marital debts can be divided through agreement of the parties in a separation agreement, or by the court in a trial. It is usually more cost-effective to do this through a separation agreement. However, please keep in mind that a separation agreement is a contract, and it takes both sides to agree to a contract. It is possible to spend a lot of time, effort, and money working toward an agreement for a separation agreement and achieve no results. However, both sides often have the same motivation to work toward a reasonable result in a separation agreement. Additionally, we can often predict the result that the Court would reach in these cases within a small range, so it usually makes more sense to work toward a separation agreement instead of immediately beginning equitable distribution litigation. In some situations, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO") is necessary for the distribution of retirement account funds, but this can be done by consent as a part of the terms contained within the separation agreement.
The advance fee ("retainer") required by Levy Law Offices for "non-court" cases, which include the drafting and negotiation of separation agreements and consent QDRO orders for are usually significantly less than the advance fee for "court" cases (lawsuits and contested litigation).
For a detailed evaluation of your case, please call Levy Law Offices for an initial consultation. There is a $240.00 fee for the initial consultation. Levy Law Offices represents individuals in family law cases on an hourly basis, which is currently $240.00 per hour.