Please Don’t Take My Panthers PSLs

Written by Kelly Johnson on 01/22/2016

We have a big weekend ahead of us, Charlotte. The Panthers are one step closer to Super Bowl 50. Venders are popping up all over the city on random street corners selling Panthers gear, despite the freezing rain. The Queen City skyline is lit up in blue. Our Mayor declared that January is Panthers Pride Month. The hashtags #KeepPounding, #Luuuuke, #PantherNation, #DabOnEm are quite meaningful to us. On game days, my husband wears his Cam Newton #1 jersey atop his Luke Kuechly t-shirt to provide luck to both the offense and the defense (as if his attire could possibly affect the outcome of the game). Graham Gano’s flawless photo has replaced the photo of my children on my iPhone screensaver (please don’t judge me).

Panthers fans are emotionally and financially invested in the team. Like many NFL teams, the Panthers offer Permanent Seat Licenses (PSLs), which provide individuals with exclusive rights to buy season tickets every year in the same spot in the Bank of America Stadium for a lifetime. With 63,000 PSLs sold and 25,000 PSL owners, certainly this could be a potential issue in a separation or divorce situation. How is this valuable personal property divided amidst a separation and divorce? What’s the cardinal rule?

In North Carolina, real and personal property acquired during marriage is classified as marital and divided through equitable distribution. “The goal of equitable distribution is to allocate to divorcing spouses a fair share of the assets accumulated by the marital partnership.” Smith v. Smith, 331 S.E.2d 682 (1985). If one spouse purchased the PSLs before marriage, the PSL would be considered separate property and distributed to that spouse. Also, subject to a few exceptions, if the spouse acquired the PSLs by bequest, devise, descent, gift, or in exchange for separate property during the marriage, the PSLs could also be considered separate property and distributed to that spouse. However, if the PSLs were purchased during the marriage, the PSLs would be categorized as marital property and subject to equitable distribution, regardless of whether one or both spouses actually purchased the PSLs. It may seem obvious who the real Panthers fan is in the household until a separation occurs and the value of the PSLs are at issue. Flag on the play!

Spouses can always agree to division of marital property, executed in writing (before, during, or after the marriage) for the distribution of property, including PSLs. Or without an agreement, one spouse could always pass the ball to the other and offer to settle by buying out that spouse’s half of the PSLs value. However, when the spouses cannot agree on how to distribute the PSLs and one party files an action in court prior to the judgment of divorce, the court will place a value on the PSLs as of the date of separation. Once the PSLs are valuated, the court will consider many specific distributional factors, such as income of the parties, property, debt, etc. and then allocate the property to one of the spouses. The court could even require the spouses to sell the PSLs and divide the proceeds between them. Interception! Sorry, the court does not consider which spouse bleeds blue and black.

Go Panthers! #KeepPounding