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Abstract

The Legislature in enacting the North Carolina Act for Equitable Distribution of Marital Property altered the common law approach of dividing property upon divorce strictly according to record title. Under the new statute, marriage is viewed as a joint venture to acquire property through monetary and non-monetary efforts of each spouse. The Legislature authorizes the courts to reward these mutual efforts by dividing marital property in an equitable fashion. Marital property is that real or personal property acquired during marriage which is traceable to the joint efforts of both spouses. Under the new statute, only that property classified as "marital property" becomes divisible by the court. The appellate courts of North Carolina have had little opportunity to interpret the new statute and have not faced the difficult issue of whether a professional degree obtained by one spouse during marriage should be classified as marital property. The statute classifies professional licenses as separate, non-divisible property. While this classification exempts the professional license from distribution in North Carolina, the Legislature left unclear the issue of whether a professional degree could be valued and distributed upon divorce. Other equitable distribution states have faced the issue. This comment focuses on these states' approaches and outlines North Carolina courts' possible responses when the contributing spouse demands a share of the other's future earnings derived from the professional degree.

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