How is marital property defined?

The definition of marital property is found in section 50-20(b)(1) of the North Carolina General Statutes — all real and personal property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage and before the date of separation, and “presently owned,” except property determined to be separate property in accordance with the statute.

The statutory definition of marital property now contains a presumption that all property acquired after the date of marriage and before separation is marital (except separate property by definition); the presumption is rebuttable by a preponderance of the evidence. This presumption changed prior case law.

“Presently owned,” with respect to time, refers to ownership or interest in the property on the date of separation (or even just before such date, if one spouse has unjustifiably seized possession of marital property without accounting for it). “Presently owned,” with respect to right, refers to the extent or basis for claiming an interest in the property, notwithstanding the present possession, title holder or claim of interest by others.

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