The prospect of ending a marriage is rife with feelings of uncertainty, fear, and discomfort. It is a major life shift and undeniable trauma. However, there are ways to feel more comfortable and confident leading into the divorce process. Some preparation can go a long way toward helping you move in your new direction.
Step 1: Speak with a Family Law Attorney Before Anything Else
Speaking with a family law attorney is essential to understanding your legal rights regarding child custody, property, and money. Understanding these rights can help you make a plan and to understand what mistakes to avoid. There are also some circumstances where it may be necessary to seek temporary orders from a court for your protection, to establish who gets to live in the home, regarding child custody, or to prevent your spouse from wasting or destroying property.
Step 2: Take Inventory of All of Your Property
Identifying and classifying the property as “separate” or “marital” property is critical when dividing property. Work with your attorney to create a comprehensive inventory of all the property you own. Find any records you can to support when property was acquired. The same is true of your debts.
Also, speak with your attorney about the protective steps you can take to ensure your spouse does not improperly waste or deplete your property. Further, obtain your credit report and explore steps to protect your credit from improper conduct by your spouse.
Step 3: Work with Your Attorney on a Separation Agreement
To create stability and certainty, many couples choose to create separation agreements that can address an array of issues, like living arrangements, a custody and visitation plan, how property will be divided, how bills will be paid, spousal support, and child support. These are enforceable, legally binding contracts. In anticipation of negotiating an agreement, it is helpful to consider the following:
- A Plan for Living Separately
Before you can obtain a divorce in North Carolina, you must first be separated from your spouse for a full year. This means living in separate residences. Anticipate that there may be conflict about who gets to stay in the marital home. If there are children and a family court is involved, there is a preference for children to stay in the home with their primary caretaker. Have a plan for your living arrangements if you would have to move out.
- Have a Plan for Your Children
Public policy and the law presume that it is in children’s best interest to have a strong, continuing bond with both of their parents. Unless your spouse has demonstrated unfitness as a parent, anticipate that a court will name one parent as the custodial parent of the children, while providing the other parent with ample visitation. Keep this in mind when proposing a parenting plan as part of a separation agreement.
- Spousal Support and Child Support
You should anticipate requesting child support or spousal support, or being asked to pay either type of support. Your attorney can discuss the various factors courts consider when awarding spousal support and child support, but it is helpful if you obtain any records showing your income and your spouse’s income over the past year, which is the starting point in the courts’ calculations.
Step 4: Put Your Plan into Action
Finally, make sure that you follow the terms of your separation agreement and communicate regularly with your attorney while waiting to file for divorce. Do not take matters into your own hands if your spouse is not abiding by the agreement. Instead, rely on your lawyer to enforce the agreement.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering a divorce and want to take an informed, thoughtful approach, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys are knowledgeable, patient, and experienced professionals who can help you navigate the end of your marriage. You have important legal rights, which we can help you understand and protect. If you want a smart, effective attorney who will fully protect your legal interests, let us help. We proudly serve women and men in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or visit us at our website.