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Abandonment, Pt. 2: Division of Martial Property

In my last post about abandonment , I told you that our clients who are going through marital issues frequently ask about allegations of abandonment, and what can be done to prevent your spouse from claiming that you “abandoned” the kids, the marriage, the home or anything else. This question has come up even more in the last few months so I decided to write another blog about it.

My last post about abandonment focused more on the children and how an allegation of abandonment, if substantiated, might affect child support and child custody. Today’s post addresses allegations of abandonment and how it might affect property distribution, specifically the marital residence.

The specific question we get a lot is, “if I leave the home, will my spouse claim that I abandoned my interest in the marital residence.” Additionally, clients might ask, “will my spouse also claim that I abandoned all of the property IN the home if I leave the marital residence.”

First and foremost, marital fault, such as spouse abandonment is NOT considered when dividing marital property. However, what can be considered, as provided by North Carolina statutory law are “acts of either party…to waste, neglect, devalue…the marital property…during the period of separation of the parties and before the period of distribution.” North Carolina General Statute 50-20(c)(11a).

That is, if you leave the marital residence without reaching an agreement as to how the mortgage and additional expenses are going to be paid, and you simply ignore the obligation of making monthly mortgage payments, your spouse could argue that you neglected the marital property. As a result, if the spouse remaining in the home continues to pay the mortgage without your help, he or she will have a very good argument that you should not be entitled to any equity that accrued from the point you left the home until the time the equity is distributed.

I hope that this post answers any questions you might have regarding abandonment issues  related  to the division of marital property, but if you have additional questions,call our office today to schedule a consultation. Our next post will be a comprehensive overview of the property division laws of North Carolina and how these laws can affect couples’ division of their marital assets and debts.