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Amazon Bezos World’s Richest Man After Divorce?

Equitable Distribution in NCWill 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 aequitatemwhich 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
    • 401K
    • SEP-IRA

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.

NC Equitable Distribution Laws

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

**Unlike criminal defense matters and/or those involving DVPO Domestic Violence Protective Orders, consultation fees may apply.  Our law firm charges hourly rates for divorce and family law legal representation.

 

 

 

 

 

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