Five Key Steps to Planning Your Separation

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

The decision to end a marriage is a big deal. The life you are accustomed to will be disrupted, as will the lives of your children. But you are probably aware of this, which is why you are taking the responsible step of searching the internet for guidance. With that in mind, here are some key steps that can help you prepare for the 12-month separation period required to obtain a divorce in North Carolina.

  1. Consult with an attorney. You have significant legal rights when it comes to dividing marital property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. It is critical that you consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand your legal rights as they apply to your circumstances. If you enter into an agreement without knowing your rights, you risk leaving money on the table or losing out on time with your children.
  2. Make living arrangements. In order to obtain a divorce in North Carolina, couples must live “separate and apart” for a year and a day. This has been interpreted to mean separate residences—not different rooms in the same house. With this in mind, have a primary and a backup plan of where you can live separately from your spouse. For example, think about if your spouse would willingly leave the family home while you remained, and as a backup plan, check the pricing and availability of apartments in your area.
  3. Gather comprehensive records of all income, property, and debts. When married couples separate, there is a great deal of potential for fraudulent and abusive behavior surrounding money and property. To protect yourself, it is in your financial interest to have a full understanding and accounting of the money, property, and debt that comprise your marital property.
  4. Consider what is best for the children and how to create as stable a transition as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional counselor to ease this transition for them. In addition, speak with a family lawyer about your options when it comes to custody and visitation.
  5. Be sure that you want to divorce. The year-long separation required to obtain a divorce must be uninterrupted. If you reconcile during that time period, then the clock resets and you have to start the timer over. Therefore, it is important to enter the separation period with some level of certainty that you want a divorce.

New Direction Family Law If you need help navigating a separation, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys have decades of combined legal experience with helping clients face an uncertain future with confidence. You have choices, such as a post-separation agreement or seeking temporary orders to protect your custody and financial interests while you wait to obtain a divorce. We will provide you with all of the information you need to make well informed decisions. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online through our website.