Ben and Debbie used to be the kind of couple who finished each other’s sentences. Now they can’t stop bickering and arguing. It’s tough to even be in the same room with them. Last year, Ben moved out of their 2,400 sq. foot Cary home and moved into a new luxury apartment in Downtown Raleigh. Even though he moved out of the home and Debbie stayed, Ben still pays the mortgage. At $1,500 each month, the house payment isn’t cheap and Debbie hasn’t helped him pay it since they separated.
Ben wants to know: “Do I get a credit for all my mortgage payments since we separated?”
Are you asking yourself the same thing?
Over the course of a year, Ben spent about $18,000 paying the mortgage. Using his separate funds, he decreased the principle balance on the loan and increase the equity in the home. Shouldn’t he get a credit for that? If your making the mortgage payments, shouldn’t you?
In North Carolina, the short answer is… maybe.
Filing a claim for equitable distribution will get the ball rolling on a final division of your marital assets and debts. Because post-separation mortgage payments aren’t quite considered part of the marital estate, North Carolina judges have discretion when deciding how to account for these types of payments. They can even decide not to address them at all. It just depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.
With that said, the court can consider your payments as a distributional factor and award you more equity in the home. The court can also “credit” you for all or a portion of the payments you make. Additionally, the court can order your spouse to reimburse you for all or a portion of the payments you make. But it’s all in the Judge’s discretion. And Judge’s have broad discretion.
If you are the supporting spouse, typically a judge will credit mortgage payments if you are not living in the marital home towards post-separation support, alimony or child support arrears. In some cases, mortgage payments can be paid in lieu of support.
That’s important to remember when negotiating a settlement or considering taking your case to trial. If you find yourself in a situation similar to Ben, it’s important to discuss with your attorney how favorable the Judge will be in your case. It’s also important to discuss how long you have paid the mortgage since the date of separation and how much money you have paid over time. The less time, the less impact your payments will likely make on the outcome of your case.
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