Interim Distribution and Equitable Distribution – What are the Differences?

As you head into divorce proceedings, you may hear the words interim distribution and equitable distribution. They are both ways that property is divided and distributed between the parties during divorce proceedings. Understanding the differences can help you approach your case effectively and work towards the result that you deserve.

What are the differences between interim distribution and equitable distribution?

In a North Carolina divorce, an interim distribution and equitable distribution are different in several respects:

Interim Distribution Equitable Distribution
May be asked for at any time while the case is pending Occurs at the end of the case
Can be temporary or permanent Is permanent
Addresses select assets Distributes all assets


Interim distribution is just that – interim. It’s an intermediary step that addresses the distribution of some of the assets while a case is pending. It may be made by an agreement of the parties, or either party can ask the court for it. On the other hand, equitable distribution fully identifies assets, divides the property between the parties, and resolves the case.

When is interim distribution appropriate?

Interim distribution may be appropriate because of the circumstances present in the case. There may be a situation where a party needs to access living expenses or an asset that is in the other party’s control. It may be that a spouse should control a particular asset, like a business, while equitable distribution is pending. Proceedings for equitable distribution can take time, and there isn’t always time to wait.

Is interim distribution final?

Whether interim distribution is final depends on the specific wording of the order. When the parties stipulate, they may specify whether the interim distribution is final for the purposes of equitable distribution or whether the issue is preserved. A spouse who is considering stipulating an interim distribution should take great care to determine whether it is a final distribution or subject to change.

Is interim distribution important?

At first glance, it may seem that an interim distribution request is not worth devoting time or energy to because it may be reversed in equitable distribution. However, it’s important to take interim distribution seriously – it is crucial and consequential to the proceedings. Although the court may have discretion to change an interim distribution later, the most common result is to credit the recipient for the distributed property when creating the equitable distribution order.

Can an interim distribution be made by consent?

The parties can agree to an interim distribution during divorce proceedings. The court may also order an interim distribution if either party asks.

What are the North Carolina laws for equitable and interim distribution in divorce?

North Carolina laws for equitable and interim distribution in divorce are found in N.C. General Statutes § 50-20. Part (a) states that when a party requests it, the court shall provide for equitable distribution of the property as provided for under the law. Part (il) says that the court may divide some of the marital property or debt on an interim basis prior to the final judgment of equitable distribution.

How do I get assets to live on while my divorce is pending? Should I ask for alimony or an interim distribution?

An interim distribution is one way to access assets during divorce. North Carolina law also allows either party to move for post-separation support. A party may move for alimony or spousal support under N.C. law § 50-16.2A. The court should consider the financial needs of each party, the standard of living during the marriage, income-earning abilities of each spouse, marital misconduct, and other financial obligations.

Requesting alimony and moving for an interim distribution of assets are ways that a spouse may find the resources they need while a divorce is pending. A divorce attorney can help you determine how to approach the court. N.C. law § 50-16.8 lists procedure requirements for post-separation support action.

Note: If you’re concerned about the other spouse dissipating assets in a divorce, you may file a motion under N.C. law § 50-20(i). The motion for injunctive relief may prevent the disappearance, waste, or conversion of property. The court may grant an injunction or require a party to post a bond.

What do I need to know about interim distribution and equitable distribution in a North Carolina divorce?

Both interim distribution and equitable distribution are important for ultimately determining what assets you receive in divorce. An interim distribution can be helpful to both parties. If the other party petitions the court for an interim distribution, the request must be taken seriously.

Depending on the wording of the interim order, the court may eventually enter it as part of equitable distribution in the case. However, an interim order may not address all the issues and assets. It may address only select assets while leaving remaining issues to be decided when the court enters its order for equitable distribution.

Remember, it is up to you to present the court with evidence of what assets exist and what distribution is equitable under the law. The court uses a variety of factors to determine equitable distribution like the length of the marriage, other obligations of support, contributions made to the education and career of each spouse, and other factors listed in § 50-20(c).

While there is a presumption that the division should be made equally, the court may determine that an equal distribution is not equitable. A distribution may be made in-kind, or the court may opt for a distributive award. A party should fully understand what is being decided in an interim order or an equitable order. They must work to present the evidence and arguments needed to advance their interests and work towards a fair result at each stage of the proceedings.

Attorneys for interim distribution during divorce

Do you have questions about interim distribution? Do you need help making a request or responding to a request for interim distribution?

See how we can work for you and help protect your rights during divorce proceedings. Contact our divorce attorneys today for a consultation.


Are consultations free?

While we offer a free consultation on traffic matters, criminal matters, and most professional license defense cases, we charge a fee for family law consultations to personalize our consultations to your specific needs. To learn about our fee structure, please get in touch.

Where can I get legal advice?

We recommend meeting with an attorney. While there is free legal help available for North Carolina residents from pro bono resources for civil matters, and public defenders for criminal cases, the best way to access tailored advice is to hire a lawyer.

Can I hire you if I’m in another state?

This is done on a case by case basis if you are involved in a family law, criminal, or professional disciplinary matter that involves another jurisdiction.



"*" indicates required fields

With a Consultation

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.