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Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina?

Deciding to separate and proceed with a divorce isn’t easy, but it’s only the first step in a sometimes-long process. When the emotional weight of splitting up with your spouse is still heavy in the air, maybe the last thing you want to do is think about what will happen to your family home.

An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand what options you have in moving forward. You’ll have to think hard about keeping the house, selling it, or contesting your spouse’s plans. It’s usually not an easy decision, but it can be even more difficult when there’s an emotional attachment to where you live.

There’s more than one possible answer, and the best one for you could require a greater understanding about the process.

Who Decides Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

Couples have the option of reaching an agreement when it comes to dividing assets. While this is the simplest and least costly option, sometimes the case has to proceed to court for a judge to make the final decision. At the conclusion of a trial, the judge will have to decide what they think is an equitable division of the property.

The judge will have to look carefully at all assets the couple owns before making any decisions on dividing property.

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What Does Property Division Look Like in Divorce?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

The court has a lot of discretion when it comes to dividing assets. The process starts with the court categorizing assets into three categories:

  • Marital property
  • Separate property
  • Divisible property

Marital Property

Marital property is all the real and personal property acquired from the date of the marriage up to the date of the separation. Houses and mortgages often fall into the marital property classification if the couple purchased the home after getting married, even if the property is only listed in one person’s name.

Divisible Property

Divisible property is the change in value of marital property from the date of separation until the date of distribution of the property. House valuations, ongoing upkeep, and tenant payments could all affect this amount.

Separate Property

Separate property is real or personal property that a spouse owned before the marriage or that came to them as an inheritance or gift in their name alone during the marriage. If one party’s parents gave the couple the house as a gift, it likely doesn’t count as separate property.

Sometimes, a house can be converted from separate property to marital property during a marriage. If a couple modifies a deed to include both names, it could convert the property to marital property. If the non-named spouse helped with finances or upkeep of the house during the marriage, the spouse acquires a marital interest in the property.

Marital and divisible property can both be divided by the court, while separate property is just that – separate. If the house is considered separate property, it will remain with the appropriate owner. If the house counts as marital or divisible property, the court will handle the division with equitable distribution.

RELATED: 5 Common Questions About Property Division During a Divorce

North Carolina and Equitable Distribution

The division of property after separation in North Carolina follows equitable distribution. This term means that the law presumes that an equal division is equitable. However, there are grounds for a judge to make an unequal division and the division still be equitable. A judge will decide whether to allow for an unequal division by looking at several factors, including:

  • Incomes, debts, and separate property
  • Contributions to the household beyond finances
  • Help during the other spouse’s education and professional development

When it comes time to consider how the house will be divided, a judge could also take custody matters into consideration. The parent that receives primary physical custody could get to stay in the marital home to keep the children secure. This decision still leaves the question of covering the mortgage, paying property taxes, and compensating the other spouse for such a large asset.

Fault Affecting the House

Fault can affect alimony and spousal support if a spouse cheated or had an affair, but North Carolina doesn’t consider fault when considering equitable distribution. This means that the offending spouse can still get their fair share of the property, including the house.

Do You Have to Sell the House?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

Selling the house and splitting the proceeds might be the simplest option, but it’s not the only one. There are ways to keep the house in the family, but it’s important to remember that some choices can come with complications, ranging from emotional effects to tax implications.

  • Balancing assets: One spouse can choose to keep the house while trading an equal value of other assets in exchange. When paying outright isn’t possible, a spouse can offer other assets with a high enough value to balance the scales.
  • Payments over time: If one spouse keeps the house but does not have enough other assets to make the division of property equal, that spouse can pay the other over time. These payments are called a distributive award.

Figuring out how these plans play out might only be the beginning of a complex solution. Property disagreements, a spouse passing, and bankruptcy could all have major impacts on what happens to a house.

How Can a Homeowner Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in North Carolina

Experienced help can be vital for a spouse considering divorce, especially when an asset as big as a house is included in the discussion. Often the largest asset a person will own, the outcome of division can have a lasting impact on a person’s life.

But before you hire a divorce lawyer to help you with your case, it’s important to think about a few details:

  • Do my final expectations align with my attorney’s?
  • Do I agree with my attorney’s approach?
  • Does my attorney have experience in this area?

Answering these questions starts with research, but it’s important to get to know the law firm you’re working with before you sign a contract.

Why Might Myers Law Firm Be the Right Choice for Homeowners in Divorce?

Planning for the future of a house can be an enormous task to do alone, especially with the included challenge of the divorce process. Myers Law Firm has over 60 years of combined experience helping clients approach divorce and property division, and is ready to work with you to get your fair and equitable share.

Reach out by calling 1-888-376–2889 or complete our brief online contact form to schedule a free consultation. We’ll discuss your case and your options, so you can create a plan for handling your house through a divorce.


N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-6

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-21

R., Branan. Land Title: Understanding Rights in Real and Personal Property. NC State Extension. Retrieved from URL https://farmlaw.ces.ncsu.edu/land-use-and-zoning/land-ownership-and-liability/land-title-understanding-rights-in-real-and-personal-property/

Separation and Divorce. North Carolina Judicial Branch. Retrieved from https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/divorce/separation-and-divorce

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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