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Complexities of Equitable Distribution in North Carolina Divorce

Equitable distribution cases involving high-net-worth parties and spouses with significant assets require careful consideration to classify, valuate, and distribute property. Each piece of property must be classified as marital, separate, or divisible as a first step in equitable distribution. Determining which category each asset belongs to can be a lengthy process when there is a significant number, and valuating all the property presents further complexities.

A Greensboro divorce lawyer will be able to help you prepare for your equitable distribution case, but high-value marital and separate estates benefit from an attorney with specific experience handling the unique nuances of these types of cases.

Shropshire v. Shropshire

In Shropshire v. Shropshire,[1] Husband and Wife attended an equitable distribution hearing on August 7, 2018. In October of that same year, the judge advised both parties that evidence would be reopened to obtain values for Husband’s retirement accounts at the date of the trial. The final hearing on the equitable distribution matter occurred in May 2019, and Husband appealed the decision.

His issues were as follows:

  • He believed the trial court abused its discretion by reopening the evidence and requesting the date of trial value for his 401(k)
  • According to Husband, certain findings of fact weren’t supported by competent evidence
  • An equal, rather than equitable, distribution may have been warranted
  • He disagreed with the distributive award of $20,000 he was ordered to pay

The Court of Appeals determined that the lower court was fully within its right to use its discretionary power to allow or request the entry of additional evidence after a party had rested because that decision was supported by reason.

There are times when determining equitable distribution requires that evidence be reopened to appropriately value the parties’ property. The court must use its discretion to make a fair and equitable decision. In the Shropshire case, the trial court decided to reopen evidence in order to obtain values for Husband’s retirement accounts. Because Wife had provided a passive income value for her retirement account, the trial court felt it would be prejudicial to her if Husband did not provide that information for his accounts.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court acted within its discretion to make the decision to reopen the evidence. Despite this ruling, however, the appeals court also determined that the case would be remanded back to the trial court because it was not clear if competent evidence to support findings existed.

The Greensboro divorce lawyers at Woodruff Family Law Group are here to help you properly identify and valuate your assets in preparation for your equitable distribution hearing. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

[1] Shropshire v. Shropshire, 2022-NCCOA-411.