A divorce doesn’t always just terminate the marital relationship – it may also terminate valuable rights to alimony and equitable distribution (property settlement). In North Carolina, when a divorce is granted, all potential claims for alimony and property settlement are terminated or barred unless the claims have been filed with the Court before the divorce is granted. Some very limited exceptions to this rule apply, pertaining primarily to out of state divorces, but these exceptions are rare.
Recently, I was contacted by a husband who represented himself in a divorce. His wife was receiving a monthly pension payment which would have been classified as marital property because she had worked for the Company from which she received the pension during the marriage. After the divorce, they verbally agreed that wife would pay husband monthly for his one-half marital share of the pension payments. Wife filed for divorce and Husband did not contest it. For several months, wife sent husband his one-half of the payments, but then she stopped. Husband contacted me to enforce the verbal agreement. Unfortunately, husband had allowed his rights to lapse. First, a verbal agreement in North Carolina between spouses to divide property is unenforceable. The agreement must be in writing and properly acknowledged before a notary. Second, because husband did not file a claim for equitable distribution before the divorce was granted, he lost his right to claim his portion of the marital property, including the pension payments. There was nothing I could do to revive the rights that husband lost. My estimate of husband’s loss exceeded $200,000!
The same rule applies to post-separation support and alimony. If you do not properly assert a claim for alimony and post-separation support, before the divorce is granted, you lose these rights forever.
As with any other issues arising from your separation or divorce, you should consult with a North Carolina Family Law Specialist. Feel free to contact me, Monty Beck, Western North Carolina Family Law Specialist to discuss your separation or divorce.