Will Jeff Bezos still be the “worlds richest man” after getting divorced? Maybe. A lot depends on whether Bezos and his wife executed a contract that is often referred to as a Prenup or Pre-Nuptial agreement.
Of course, Jeff Bezos may not have been the world’s richest man in the first place. It’s likely he was a part of the world’s richest couple.
All the money earned at Amazon probably isn’t “his.” Instead, it’s reasonable to assume the billions from Amazon is theirs.
That’s because wealth accumulated during the period of marriage is often considered part of the marital estate, at least that would be the case under the NC divorce laws.
Without some form of agreement to the contrary, Bezos likely only ever owned 1/2 of the reported 137+ billion dollars – Bill Powers, Divorce Lawyer Charlotte NC
Indeed, some might say the term “world’s richest man” engenders a hint of sexism. President Trump purportedly said of Bezos, “I wish him luck, it’s going to be a beauty.”
It assumes wealth earned by the man is his and anything “given” to the wife, as part of a divorce or Equitable Distribution, was his to lose.
If marriage is truly a union where “two become one,” it’s a good idea to consider the fact that if you own a 1/2 interest in an asset, you are only ever entitled to 1/2 the value of that asset, if that.
Marital estates with substantial value (real property, bank accounts, and income), where those assets were obtained during the period of marriage and not treated as separate or individual property, are often divvied up straight down the middle.
Yet, under the NC divorce laws, you’d remiss in assuming “equitable” means “equal” in every instance.
In fact, an equitable distribution may very well result in one party to the marriage getting a larger percentage of the marital assets after careful consideration of a series of different factors.
What is Equitable Distribution in NC?
The etymology of the word “equity” comes from the Latin term aequitatem, which means “equal, impartial, and fair.” Under the laws setting forth the manner of determining equitable distribution in NC, equity does not necessarily mean 1/2.
In fact, what a Family Court Judge determines to be equitable could be anything but uniformity, equality, or symmetry. The Court must consider big picture things such as:
- Amount of money at hand
- Bank Accounts
- Checking / Savings
- Liquid Assets
- Prior marital estates
- Settlements and support requirements
- Relative infirmity of one spouse
- Housing needs
- Deferred income
- Income Due
- Profit Plans / Vested Interests
- Retirement Accounts
The specifics of Equitable Distribution are set forth in the NC General Statutes in N.C.G.S 50-20. The process includes three general steps or CVD: Classification, Valuation, and Distribution.
What is Marital Property?
If an asset is classified as “separate” or an individual asset belonging only to one spouse in the marriage, its value often isn’t quite as contentious. That’s because assets determined to be separate property are not Marital Property and therefore not subject to equitable distribution.
While Courts must consider individual separate property in determining things like Alimony in North Carolina, if found to be the possession of one party and not the marital estate, ED simply does not apply – Bill Powers, Divorce Attorney Charlotte NC
The process of figuring out what is marital property vs a separate or individual asset falls within the duty of the Court to classify property. Part of that may also include an assessment of what is divisible property.
Divisible property is a way to work through fluctuations in the value of marital property, both good and bad. Divisible property involves increases (and decreases) in the value of the marital property that occur after the date of formal separation but prior to the formal distribution of assets.
“Property” may or may not specifically relate to real estate. Divisible property may involve increases and decreases in value to houses and real estate, retirement accounts, and even things like precious metals or jewelry.
Once the asset is “classified,” the next step is to determine the value of that asset. Thereafter, the Court Orders the distribution of the asset. That may involve writing a check or transferring title to cars and houses or handing over personal items.
It sounds simple enough, that is until you disagree whether you intended something of value to remain yours, and yours alone, and not part of the marital estate. And as you might understand, the value of things commonly is a source of disagreement.
Powers Law Firm PA – Divorce Lawyers Charlotte NC
If you have questions about how the divorce laws may affect you or whether Equitable Distribution in NC includes gifts from family or an inheritance, give us a ring. We’re here to help.
You may reach Bill Powers by email: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com
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Researching divorce and divorce lawyers is often an emotional but important first step. Considering your legal options is a good idea, especially if you’re not entirely certain you even if want to try separation or possibly end the marriage.
There are a lot of things to consider in addition to the relationship itself. Distribution of your marital estate can be extraordinarily complicated.
You might not realize the entire value of individual and marital assets until looking at things holistically, considering the totality of circumstances.
If you add children and the potential for protracted litigation or a custody dispute, there is a lot to absorb.
It’s OK to be a bit unsure and unsettled. This is a big step. It’s also OK to sit down with us, ask questions, and decide to do nothing at all – Bill Powers, Divorce Attorney Charlotte NC
What’s the first step in separation and divorce?
That’s a great question and a potential source for problems. Under the NC divorce laws, except for very narrow, limited exceptions, you must be legally separated for no less than 1 year before filing for divorce in North Carolina.
As such, legal separation comes first. Indeed, that’s what attorneys refer to as a term of art. The rules for legal separation are specific and not subject to negotiation.
One of the more common errors and misunderstandings people have is failing to fully comprehend what it means to be legally separated. It most certainly is not living in separate rooms, under the same roof, or simply proceeding as if you are no longer married.
That may be the law in other states. It is not the law in North Carolina. In fact, the one-year clock can be reset by renewed cohabitation, even if that turns out to be only for a short period of time.
What is a Legal Separation in NC?
Legal separation begins the day spouses maintain two separate residences, with the intent to continue living separate and apart from each other on a permanent basis. It must be an actual, physical separation with two separate, distinct residences. See N.C.G.S. § 50-6.
Article One of Chapter 50 (the NC Divorce and Alimony statute) mentions “husband” and “wife” when referring to legal separation. Given the adoption and recognition of same-sex marriages in North Carolina, the parties to a divorce, whatever form that may take, must intend to permanently live apart.
Thereafter, either the plaintiff or the defendant in an action for divorce in NC must have resided in North Carolina for no less than 6 months. There are also other legal requirements regarding jurisdiction and proper venue that must be fulfilled prior to filing a lawsuit.
Both parties do not have to consent to the divorce. That only takes one spouse in North Carolina. The law demands proof of legal separation for no less than one year and cannot be waived by mutual consent of the respective parties.
What is Reconciliation?
Resumption of marital relations after separation may later be determined to be a formal reconciliation. Under the law, that legal issue must be resolved pursuant to N.C.G.S. 52-10.2. Resumption of the marital relationship requires a voluntary renewal of a “husband and wife relationship.”
Occasional or “isolated” incidents of sexual intercourse may not constitute a legal reconciliation or otherwise cause problems with the mandatory 1 year separation period. In reviewing whether the parties intend to reconcile, the family court Judge considers the totality of the circumstances, making appropriate Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
Obviously, the General Assembly will need to update the law, recognizing the legal rights (and responsibilities) afforded to same sex marriages in North Carolina.
Bill Powers – Divorce Attorney Charlotte NC
There is a fair amount of discretion and subjective interpretation given to Judges under the divorce laws. While that may lead to some level of confusion at times, it also recognizes the many different types of relationships in North Carolina.
Clearly, the Pine State has room to improve, especially as it pertains to updating and recognizing same sex marital relationships in the various and sundry laws and martial statutes.
Fortunately, the substantial discretion that is given to Judges in settling legal issues also provides the opportunity for compassion and empathy in resolving your legal dispute, recognizing individual circumstances and societal changes.
Our family court judges in Mecklenburg County are some of the best in the state. They are dedicated, hard-working, and committed to resolving marital disputes in a fair and equitable manner – Bill Powers, Divorce Attorney
And with that said, it’s important you take the time to carefully consider your legal options. The “first step,” as we’ve called it, may involve sitting down with an attorney, asking questions, and providing information about your unique circumstances.
No two marriages are exactly alike. What’s important to you and your family, especially concerning life-altering changes to the structure of your interpersonal relationships, deserves careful, measured consideration.