If my wife had the house before we married and never put my name on it, what am I entitled to?

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If my wife had the house before we married and never put my name on it, what am I entitled to?

I married a much older woman when I was 23; now we been married 11 years. She was very jealous and never wanted me to work but I did run a small business for 5 years in which she helped me. My problem is that everything is in her name except the vehicle which is in both. We have always filed joint taxes. Now she basically won’t touch me and I’m done but have nowhere to go or anything really because I never pushed for anything. What can I do? Will her abandonment of affection account for anything? I don’t know anything about divorce or separation. Will I have to leave the house?

Asked on May 14, 2011 under Family Law, North Carolina

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state.  That means that marital property is divided "equitably" as determined by various factors but not necessarily "equally."  There is a determination as to which property is considered marital and which is considered separate.  Generally speaking property owned prior to marriage is separate BUT the court does look at factors surrounding this to see if in fact the property or a portion can be considered marital.  Only one name on property is not an absolute bar to the other spouse's right to some of the value. The court considers all of the following factors when determining the property distribution:

  • The income, property, and liabilities of each party.
  • Any obligation for support arising out of a prior marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties.
  • The need of a parent with custody of children of the marriage to occupy or own. the marital residence and to use or own its household effects.
  • The expectation of pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property.
  • Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services, or lack thereof, as a spouse, parent, wage earner or homemaker.
  • Any direct or indirect contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse.
  • Any direct contribution to an increase in value of separate property which occurs during the course of the marriage.
  • The tax consequences to each party that would have been incurred if the marital and divisible property had been sold or liquidated on the date of valuation.
  • Acts of either party to maintain, preserve, develop, or expand; or to waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property or divisible property, or both, during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution.
  • Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.

So you are not out of luck here.  You just need to consult with an attorney.  And I would do so quickly.  As for grounds, that is something you need to discuss as well with your lawyer.  Many states have what is known as "constructive abandonment" which is I think what you are describing here but there is often a time frame associated with it.  Good luck.


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