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Separate Property in a Nutshell

NC Gen. Stat. §50-20 defines marital property and separate property for purposes of equitable distribution, the division of marital assets in North Carolina. Marital property is generally property either of you acquire during the time you are married and live together, so long as the property exists when you separate. There are certain distinctions concerning assets and debts during the time period after spouses separate. A case can become quite complex because there are also assets that can be mixed, being partly marital and partly separate. If debts for an asset were paid with marital money, for example, the asset might be mixed in nature. This article focuses on assets that are purely separate property.

Legal Definitions

Separate property is property you acquired before you got married. This applies not only to personal property, such as a vehicle, but real property as well. If you can prove an asset was one you inherited, it will be your separate property. A gift to you alone, not to you as husband and wife, is separate property as long as the gift is not from your spouse. In a peculiar twist, the statute says if your husband or wife gives you a gift while you are married and living together, that gift is marital property and not your separate property, with one exception. If your spouse says the gift is your separate property when the gift is given, it will be.

Professional licenses and business licenses that cannot be transferred are separate property. For example, a law license or medical license is separate property. Do-It-Yourself Definitions Sometimes called a pre-nup or pre-nuptial agreement, a valid signed pre-marital agreement can be used to substitute an agreed-upon definition of separate property that is different from the definition used in the statute. Such an agreement can define separate property by title, meaning the spouse who bought an asset in his or her sole name while married and living together owns it as separate property. Similarly, people can agree who keeps what in a separation agreement, which is also a contract.

Do-It-Yourself Definitions

Sometimes called a pre-nup or pre-nuptial agreement, a valid signed pre-marital agreement can be used to substitute an agreed-upon definition of separate property that is different from the definition used in the statute. Such an agreement can define separate property by title, meaning the spouse who bought an asset in his or her sole name while married and living together owns it as separate property. Similarly, people can agree who keeps what in a separation agreement, which is also a contract.

Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC. Laws change. This article is current as of 2015. www.NCLawyersForYou.com © 2015

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