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N.C.G.S. CHAPTER 50-20 THROUGH 50-21

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N.C.G.S. CHAPTER 50-20 THROUGH 50-21


Chapter 50.

Divorce and Alimony.

Article 1.

Divorce, Alimony, and Child Support, Generally.

§ 50‑20. Distribution by court of marital and divisible property.

(a) Upon application of a party, the court shall determine what is the marital property and divisible property and shall provide for an equitable distribution of the marital property and divisible property between the parties in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(b) For purposes of this section:

(1) “Marital property” means all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of the separation of the parties, and presently owned, except property determined to be separate property or divisible property in accordance with subdivision (2) or (4) of this subsection. Marital property includes all vested and nonvested pension, retirement, and other deferred compensation rights, and vested and nonvested military pensions eligible under the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. It is presumed that all property acquired after the date of marriage and before the date of separation is marital property except property which is separate property under subdivision (2) of this subsection. This presumption may be rebutted by the greater weight of the evidence.

(2) “Separate property” means all real and personal property acquired by a spouse before marriage or acquired by a spouse by bequest, devise, descent, or gift during the course of the marriage. However, property acquired by gift from the other spouse during the course of the marriage shall be considered separate property only if such an intention is stated in the conveyance. Property acquired in exchange for separate property shall remain separate property regardless of whether the title is in the name of the husband or wife or both and shall not be considered to be marital property unless a contrary intention is expressly stated in the conveyance. The increase in value of separate property and the income derived from separate property shall be considered separate property. All professional licenses and business licenses which would terminate on transfer shall be considered separate property.

(3) “Distributive award” means payments that are payable either in a lump sum or over a period of time in fixed amounts, but shall not include alimony payments or other similar payments for support and maintenance which are treated as ordinary income to the recipient under the Internal Revenue Code.

(4) “Divisible property” means all real and personal property as set forth below:

a. All appreciation and diminution in value of marital property and divisible property of the parties occurring after the date of separation and prior to the date of distribution, except that appreciation or diminution in value which is the result of postseparation actions or activities of a spouse shall not be treated as divisible property.

b. All property, property rights, or any portion thereof received after the date of separation but before the date of distribution that was acquired as a result of the efforts of either spouse during the marriage and before the date of separation, including, but not limited to, commissions, bonuses, and contractual rights.

c. Passive income from marital property received after the date of separation, including, but not limited to, interest and dividends.

d. Increases and decreases in marital debt and financing charges and interest related to marital debt.

(c) There shall be an equal division by using net value of marital property and net value of divisible property unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable. If the court determines that an equal division is not equitable, the court shall divide the marital property and divisible property equitably. The court shall consider all of the following factors under this subsection:

(1) The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.

(2) Any obligation for support arising out of a prior marriage.

(3) The duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties.

(4) The need of a parent with custody of a child or children of the marriage to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects.

(5) The expectation of pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property.

(6) Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services, or lack thereof, as a spouse, parent, wage earner or homemaker.

(7) Any direct or indirect contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse.

(8) Any direct contribution to an increase in value of separate property which occurs during the course of the marriage.

(9) The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property and divisible property.

(10) The difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession, and the economic desirability of retaining such asset or interest, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

(11) The tax consequences to each party, including those federal and State tax consequences that would have been incurred if the marital and divisible property had been sold or liquidated on the date of valuation. The trial court may, however, in its discretion, consider whether or when such tax consequences are reasonably likely to occur in determining the equitable value deemed appropriate for this factor.

(11a) Acts of either party to maintain, preserve, develop, or expand; or to 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.

(11b) In the event of the death of either party prior to the entry of any order for the distribution of property made pursuant to this subsection:

a. Property passing to the surviving spouse by will or through intestacy due to the death of a spouse.

b. Property held as tenants by the entirety or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship passing to the surviving spouse due to the death of a spouse.

c. Property passing to the surviving spouse from life insurance, individual retirement accounts, pension or profit‑sharing plans, any private or governmental retirement plan or annuity of which the decedent controlled the designation of beneficiary (excluding any benefits under the federal social security system), or any other retirement accounts or contracts, due to the death of a spouse.

d. The surviving spouse’s right to claim an “elective share” pursuant to G.S. 30‑3.1 through G.S. 30‑33, unless otherwise waived.

(12) Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.

(c1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a second or subsequent spouse acquires no interest in the marital property and divisible property of his or her spouse from a former marriage until a final determination of equitable distribution is made in the marital property and divisible property of the spouse’s former marriage.

(d) Before, during or after marriage the parties may by written agreement, duly executed and acknowledged in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 52‑10 and 52‑10.1, or by a written agreement valid in the jurisdiction where executed, provide for distribution of the marital property or divisible property, or both, in a manner deemed by the parties to be equitable and the agreement shall be binding on the parties.

(e) Subject to the presumption of subsection (c) of this section that an equal division is equitable, it shall be presumed in every action that an in‑kind distribution of marital or divisible property is equitable. This presumption may be rebutted by the greater weight of the evidence, or by evidence that the property is a closely held business entity or is otherwise not susceptible of division in‑kind. In any action in which the presumption is rebutted, the court in lieu of in‑kind distribution shall provide for a distributive award in order to achieve equity between the parties. The court may provide for a distributive award to facilitate, effectuate or supplement a distribution of marital or divisible property. The court may provide that any distributive award payable over a period of time be secured by a lien on specific property.

(f) The court shall provide for an equitable distribution without regard to alimony for either party or support of the children of both parties. After the determination of an equitable distribution, the court, upon request of either party, shall consider whether an order for alimony or child support should be modified or vacated pursuant to G.S. 50‑16.9 or 50‑13.7.

(g) If the court orders the transfer of real or personal property or an interest therein, the court may also enter an order which shall transfer title, as provided in G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 70 and G.S. 1‑228.

(h) If either party claims that any real property is marital property or divisible property, that party may cause a notice of lis pendens to be recorded pursuant to Article 11 of Chapter 1 of the General Statutes. Any person whose conveyance or encumbrance is recorded or whose interest is obtained by descent, prior to the filing of the lis pendens, shall take the real property free of any claim resulting from the equitable distribution proceeding. The court may cancel the notice of lis pendens upon substitution of a bond with surety in an amount determined by the court to be sufficient provided the court finds that the claim of the spouse against property subject to the notice of lis pendens can be satisfied by money damages.

(i) Upon filing an action or motion in the cause requesting an equitable distribution or alleging that an equitable distribution will be requested when it is timely to do so, a party may seek injunctive relief pursuant to G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 65 and Chapter 1, Article 37, to prevent the disappearance, waste or conversion of property alleged to be marital property, divisible property, or separate property of the party seeking relief. The court, in lieu of granting an injunction, may require a bond or other assurance of sufficient amount to protect the interest of the other spouse in the property. Upon application by the owner of separate property which was removed from the marital home or possession of its owner by the other spouse, the court may enter an order for reasonable counsel fees and costs of court incurred to regain its possession, but such fees shall not exceed the fair market value of the separate property at the time it was removed.

(i1) Unless good cause is shown that there should not be an interim distribution, the court may, at any time after an action for equitable distribution has been filed and prior to the final judgment of equitable distribution, enter orders declaring what is separate property and may also enter orders dividing part of the marital property, divisible property or debt, or marital debt between the parties. The partial distribution may provide for a distributive award and may also provide for a distribution of marital property, marital debt, divisible property, or divisible debt. Any such orders entered shall be taken into consideration at trial and proper credit given.

Hearings held pursuant to this subsection may be held at sessions arranged by the chief district court judge pursuant to G.S. 7A‑146 and, if held at such sessions, shall not be subject to the reporting requirements of G.S. 7A‑198.

(j) In any order for the distribution of property made pursuant to this section, the court shall make written findings of fact that support the determination that the marital property and divisible property has been equitably divided.

(k) The rights of the parties to an equitable distribution of marital property and divisible property are a species of common ownership, the rights of the respective parties vesting at the time of the parties’ separation.

(l) (1) A claim for equitable distribution, whether an action is filed or not, survives the death of a spouse so long as the parties are living separate and apart at the time of death.

(2) The provisions of Article 19 of Chapter 28A of the General Statutes shall be applicable to a claim for equitable distribution against the estate of the deceased spouse.

(3) Any claim for equitable distribution against the surviving spouse made by the estate of the deceased spouse must be filed with the district court within one year of the date of death of the deceased spouse or be forever barred. (1981, c. 815, s. 1; 1983, c. 309; c. 640, ss. 1, 2; c. 758, ss. 1‑4; 1985, c. 31, ss. 1‑3; c. 143; c. 660, ss. 1‑3; 1987, c. 663; c. 844, s. 2; 1991, c. 635, ss. 1, 1.1; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 960, s. 1; 1995, c. 240, s. 1; c. 245, s. 2; 1997‑212, ss. 2‑5; 1997‑302, s. 1; 1998‑217, s. 7(c); 2001‑364, ss. 2, 3; 2002‑159, s. 33; 2003‑168, ss. 1, 2; 2005‑353, s. 1.)

§ 50‑20.1. Pension and retirement benefits.

(a) The award of vested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits may be made payable:

(1) As a lump sum by agreement;

(2) Over a period of time in fixed amounts by agreement;

(3) By appropriate domestic relations order as a prorated portion of the benefits made to the designated recipient at the time the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits; or

(4) By awarding a larger portion of other assets to the party not receiving the benefits and a smaller share of other assets to the party entitled to receive the benefits.

(b) The award of nonvested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits may be made payable:

(1) As a lump sum by agreement;

(2) Over a period of time in fixed amounts by agreement; or

(3) By appropriate domestic relations order as a prorated portion of the benefits made to the designated recipient at the time the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, the court shall not require the administrator of the fund or plan involved to make any payments until the party against whom the award is made actually begins to receive the benefits unless the plan permits an earlier distribution.

(d) The award shall be determined using the proportion of time the marriage existed (up to the date of separation of the parties), simultaneously with the employment which earned the vested and nonvested pension, retirement, or deferred compensation benefit, to the total amount of time of employment. The award shall be based on the vested and nonvested accrued benefit, as provided by the plan or fund, calculated as of the date of separation, and shall not include contributions, years of service, or compensation which may accrue after the date of separation. The award shall include gains and losses on the prorated portion of the benefit vested at the date of separation.

(e) No award shall exceed fifty percent (50%) of the benefits the person against whom the award is made is entitled to receive as vested and nonvested pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits, except that an award may exceed fifty percent (50%) if (i) other assets subject to equitable distribution are insufficient; or (ii) there is difficulty in distributing any asset or any interest in a business, corporation, or profession; or (iii) it is economically desirable for one party to retain an asset or interest that is intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party; or (iv) more than one pension or retirement system or deferred compensation plan or fund is involved, but the benefits award may not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the total benefits of all the plans added together; or (v) both parties consent. In no event shall an award exceed fifty percent (50%) if a plan prohibits an award in excess of fifty percent (50%).

(f) In the event the person receiving the award dies, the unpaid balance, if any, of the award shall pass to the beneficiaries of the recipient by will, if any, or by intestate succession, or by beneficiary designation with the plan consistent with the terms of the plan unless the plan prohibits such designation. In the event the person against whom the award is made dies, the award to the recipient shall remain payable to the extent permitted by the pension or retirement system or deferred compensation plan or fund involved.

(g) The court may require distribution of the award by means of a qualified domestic relations order, or as defined in section 414(p) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or by other appropriate order. To facilitate the calculating and payment of distributive awards, the administrator of the system, plan, or fund may be ordered to certify the total contributions, years of service, and pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation benefits payable.

(h) This section and G.S. 50‑21 shall apply to all pension, retirement, and other deferred compensation plans and funds, including vested and nonvested military pensions eligible under the federal Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act, and including funds administered by the State pursuant to Articles 84 through 88 of Chapter 58 and Chapters 120, 127A, 128, 135, 143, 143B, and 147 of the General Statutes, to the extent of a member’s accrued benefit at the date of separation, as determined by the court. (1997‑212, s. 1.)

§ 50‑21. Procedures in actions for equitable distribution of property; sanctions for purposeful and prejudicial delay.

(a) At any time after a husband and wife begin to live separate and apart from each other, a claim for equitable distribution may be filed and adjudicated, either as a separate civil action, or together with any other action brought pursuant to Chapter 50 of the General Statutes, or as a motion in the cause as provided by G.S. 50‑11(e) or (f). Within 90 days after service of a claim for equitable distribution, the party who first asserts the claim shall prepare and serve upon the opposing party an equitable distribution inventory affidavit listing all property claimed by the party to be marital property and all property claimed by the party to be separate property, and the estimated date‑of‑separation fair market value of each item of marital and separate property. Within 30 days after service of the inventory affidavit, the party upon whom service is made shall prepare and serve an inventory affidavit upon the other party. The inventory affidavits prepared and served pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to amendment and shall not be binding at trial as to completeness or value. The court may extend the time limits in this subsection for good cause shown. The affidavits are subject to the requirements of G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 11, and are deemed to be in the nature of answers to interrogatories propounded to the parties. Any party failing to supply the information required by this subsection in the affidavit is subject to G.S. 1A‑1, Rules 26, 33, and 37. During the pendency of the action for equitable distribution, discovery may proceed, and the court shall enter temporary orders as appropriate and necessary for the purpose of preventing the disappearance, waste, or destruction of marital or separate property or to secure the possession thereof.

Real or personal property located outside of North Carolina is subject to equitable distribution in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 50‑20, and the court may include in its order appropriate provisions to ensure compliance with the order of equitable distribution.

(b) For purposes of equitable distribution, marital property shall be valued as of the date of the separation of the parties, and evidence of preseparation and postseparation occurrences or values is competent as corroborative evidence of the value of marital property as of the date of the separation of the parties. Divisible property and divisible debt shall be valued as of the date of distribution.

(c) Nothing in G.S. 50‑20 or this section shall restrict or extend the right to trial by jury as provided by the Constitution of North Carolina.

(d) Within 120 days after the filing of the initial pleading or motion in the cause for equitable distribution, the party first serving the pleading or application shall apply to the court to conduct a scheduling and discovery conference. If that party fails to make application, then the other party may do so. At the conference the court shall determine a schedule of discovery as well as consider and rule upon any motions for appointment of expert witnesses, or other applications, including applications to determine the date of separation, and shall set a date for the disclosure of expert witnesses and a date on or before which an initial pretrial conference shall be held.

At the initial pretrial conference the court shall make inquiry as to the status of the case and shall enter a date for the completion of discovery, the completion of a mediated settlement conference, if applicable, and the filing and service of motions, and shall determine a date on or after which a final pretrial conference shall be held and a date on or after which the case shall proceed to trial.

The final pretrial conference shall be conducted pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure and the General Rules of Practice in the applicable district or superior court, adopted pursuant to G.S. 7A‑34. The court shall rule upon any matters reasonably necessary to effect a fair and prompt disposition of the case in the interests of justice.

(e) Upon motion of either party or upon the court’s own initiative, the court shall impose an appropriate sanction on a party when the court finds that:

(1) The party has willfully obstructed or unreasonably delayed, or has attempted to obstruct or unreasonably delay, discovery proceedings, including failure to make discovery pursuant to G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 37, or has willfully obstructed or unreasonably delayed or attempted to obstruct or unreasonably delay any pending equitable distribution proceeding, and

(2) The willful obstruction or unreasonable delay of the proceedings is or would be prejudicial to the interests of the opposing party.

Delay consented to by the parties is not grounds for sanctions. The sanction may include an order to pay the other party the amount of the reasonable expenses and damages incurred because of the willful obstruction or unreasonable delay, including a reasonable attorneys’ fee, and including appointment by the court, at the offending party’s expense, of an accountant, appraiser, or other expert whose services the court finds are necessary to secure in order for the discovery or other equitable distribution proceeding to be timely conducted. (1981, c. 815, s. 6; 1983, c. 671, s. 1; 1985, c. 689, s. 21; 1987, c. 844, s. 1; 1991, c. 610, s. 2; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 910, s. 1; 1993, c. 209, s. 1; 1995, c. 244, s. 1; c. 245, s. 1; 1997‑302, s. 2; 2001‑364, s. 1.)

The information contained on this site is provided as a public service for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law. The reader is advised to check for changes to current law and to consult with a qualified attorney on any legal issue before taking action of any kind. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice or to create or imply the formation of a lawyer-client relationship between the reader and this firm.

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