by Benjamin N. Neece, Attorney
Equitable Distribution, in a nutshell, is giving each party to a marriage what they are entitled regarding property acquired during the marriage. As one of the pillars of many divorce proceedings, it is commonly the most complex aspects, requiring extensive research into the lives of individuals going through a divorce. In some instances, the parties to a divorce can amicably agree as to how the property acquired during the marriage shall be distributed, and in some instances where parties fail to agree, distribution may be simple due to the nature, amount, and availability of information regarding marital property. In other instances, the parties cannot agree, and the marital assets are numerous, complex, and difficult to find; this situation can create a very tall task for attorneys in properly representing client interests.
A recent North Carolina case, Uli v. Uli (N.C. App., 2017), breaks down equitable distribution in an effort to comprehensively explain how North Carolina courts are to handle these types of claims. North Carolina courts conduct a three-step analysis to determine what is marital property, what is divisible property, and how to provide for an equitable distribution between the parties. First, the court must identify and classify the property as marital or separate based upon evidence presented regarding the nature of the asset. Next, the court must determine the net value of the marital property as of the date of separation. Lastly, the court must distribute the marital property equitably. Smith v. Smith, 433 S.E.2d 196, 202-203 (1993).