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North Carolina Equitable Distribution Laws

While the issues of child custody and child support may be some of the most difficult issues to tackle during a divorce, dividing property can also be very difficult for soon-to-be exes. In dividing property, a minority of states follow the "community property" method of division, while the rest generally follow the "equitable distribution" method of division. North Carolina, like the majority of states, divides property based on equitable distribution.

Classification of Property

In proceedings for property division, North Carolina classifies property as marital property, divisible property, or separate property. Each type of property is generally categorized as follows:

  • Marital Property: all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the marriage that isn't classified as divisible property or separate property.
  • Divisible Property: a variety of real and personal property that is acquired or received after the date of separation and prior to the date of property distribution.
  • Separate Property: all real and personal property acquired by a spouse before marriage, and any inheritance or gift acquired by a spouse during the marriage. Of note, if the gift is from one spouse to the other, it will only be considered separate property if such an intention is stated.

Please note that the property defined above is not a complete list, but you can find such a list contained in North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-20(b). Once the court determines which property falls into which category, it will then provide for an equitable distribution of marital and divisible property.

North Carolina Equitable Distribution Laws at a Glance

There's no question that it's important to read the actual text of a statute when conducting legal research. But it can also be beneficial to read a summary of the statute in plain English to supplement your understanding of what a law says. In the chart below, you'll find an overview of North Carolina equitable distribution laws, and links to relevant statutes.


North Carolina General Statutes Sections 50-20 to 50-21

Factors to Determine Equitable Distribution of Property

Generally, the court will divide martial property and divisible property equally (based on the net value of each type of property). However, if equal division would not be equitable, the court will consider a variety of factors* to determine how to make the division of property equitable including:

  • The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property would become effective.
  • Any spousal supports from a previous marriage.
  • The length of the marriage, and the age, physical health, and mental health of both spouses.
  • The expectation of deferred compensation rights (i.e. pension or retirement) that aren't marital property.
  • Any contribution (direct or indirect) made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse.
  • The liquidity of all marital property and divisible property.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any other factor the court deems is "just and proper."

*For a complete and more detailed list of factors, please see Section 50-20(c).

Related Statute(s)

North Carolina General Statutes

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

North Carolina Equitable Distribution Laws: Related Resources

For more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links below:

Talk to an Attorney About North Carolina Equitable Distribution Laws

If you're thinking about filing for divorce, or have already filed for divorce, it's a good idea to contact a North Carolina divorce lawyer who can explain how North Carolina equitable distribution laws affect your particular situation.

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