Separation and Divorce Tips
Before signing any paperwork, talk to a Charlotte Divorce and Family Law attorney Divorce is never easy. It is often a trying time, testing us in ways we can only imagine. Separating marital assets and all that comes with ending a marriage can be an expensive, time-consuming, and even a daunting process. Separation and divorce in North Carolina doesn’t have to be so hurtful, especially to your children.
What you need to know about separation and divorce in North Carolina is this: you must have plan. Preparation is key. Following these simple steps are helpful even if you are only considering ending the marriage and separating. As divorce lawyers in Charlotte, we recommend all clients take a step back, read this article, and think about how this information can help.
While these separation and divorce tips may seem to be common-sense, you might be surprised how often emotions relating to ending a marriage can get the best of us. We’re here to help guide you through the legal process of separation, divorce, and what may come of things like alimony, spousal support, distribution of assets, child custody, and child support.
We are family law attorneys based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“As attorneys we are defined by a desire to help, not by case type or practice group. We are experienced courtroom litigators, dedicated to compassion, hard work, and skilled legal adxvocacy.”
– Bill Powers
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This may come as a surprise, but deciding whether to stay together may actually be the easy part of a divorce. One of the more shocking aspects of getting separated is trying to figure out what things look like in the future. If you are CONSIDERING getting separated, the single most important step is this: Figure out what you have financially, and how you will support yourself and maybe your children in the future.
Fear of not knowing what to expect is terrible. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be blind-sided. Think logically. If you are emotionally tied up with relationship issues, it can be almost impossible to think logically. If you believe separation and divorce may be in your future, ask yourself these important questions:
- What is going to make me “feel safe?”
- What do I have?
- What is valuable?
- What are my resources?
- What am I going to need to live?
- Where are the accounts?
- Do I have an IRA?
- Are there life insurance benefits and is there a cash-out value?
- Who is going to handle healthcare costs and major medical insurance?
- How financially safe am I going to be?
- Where am I with money?
- Should I keep my house?
- Do I need to replace my car?
- Will I have enough cash flow to maintain my lifestyle?
- How much is the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance?
Prior to legal separation and after filing for divorce, people in North Carolina regularly fail to consider the financial or economic part of ending a marriage. We’ve found you MUST have an understanding where you’re going to be financially, both during separation from a spouse and afterwards, when an “Absolute Divorce” is entered in a NC court.
Strong emotions may cause a divorce or separation. Despite your best efforts, it can be hard to set personal feelings aside, especially when dealing with issues like who gets the kids, how visitation is scheduled, or the legal custody of your children.
That also applies when money is involved. Who gets the house in the divorce? Who has to leave? How are the assets going to be divided when you separate? Who is responsible for paying the bills?
In any negotiation involving finances, the litigants MUST have a full, complete understanding of the assets and debts involved in the marriage.
Things may change between the time the parties separate and when an absolute divorce is ultimately granted. Things also change due to economic factors both nationally and in North Carolina. The cost of living after divorce, changes to finances, and long-term, post-marital support are important considerations.
- Start accumulating information immediately
- Work out a budget
- Acknowledge things will likely be different, especially if finances in the marriage are already an issue
Consider things like what a new roof or leaky basement would cost if you keep the house. It may make you worse off. Later you may think, ” I’m stuck in the same house, with the same memories, and I don’t know how to move on.” It may make sense to have a fresh start somewhere else other than Charlotte or North Carolina.
Divorce may sound simple, but it’s not.
Wherever you may be in the process, figuring out the finances is going to take a LOT of work. That’s just as true when the husband and wife wish to part amicably.
Unless you are someone who keeps detailed records and knows EXACTLY where all your legal and financial documents are, the process of figuring out finances often is one of the most complicated, time-consuming aspects of separation and divorce. Without a doubt, it is always better to have the materials in hand, ready to go, before moving forward.
- Get taxes and tax records for the last five years
- Make a list of assets
- Collect bank statements for the last three years
- Checking accounts
- If you or your spouse own a business, gather business records, bank statements, tax returns, Profit-and-Loss statements, Secretary of State filings, and business appraisals
- Document pensions, account numbers, balances, and payout terms
The more leg work done on the FRONT END of a separation and divorce, the better off you will be. Collecting information and research costs money. It may help to consult with a certified financial adviser, analyst, or accountant, and go through all different investments, second homes, jewelry, wine collections, cars, etc.
Get information and documentation about your IRA, 401K, and retirement accounts. Make sure you have copies of legal paperwork, a prenuptial agreement if there is one, and prior court filings. It helps to have copies of birth certificates, insurance polices and life insurance materials such disability, unemployment, or death benefits.
Calculate your debt: credit card debt, liabilities, and school debt. It’s important to figure out if your spouse continues to keep charging goods on your joint credit card. Have originals of a power of attorney for healthcare, a will, a durable power of attorney, and an estate plan.Tip # 2 Honesty is the Best Policy
Don’t lie to your spouse. Don’t lie to your North Carolina divorce attorney. Don’t lie in court or to the judge or jury. It will most certainly make an already bad situation much worse. Turn in accurate materials, even if you believe your spouse is hiding records, documents, or statements. Let your family attorney and the court work that all out. In fact, your accurate and complete records can in many instances show how INACCURATE other materials may be.
There can be long-term, negative, and severe consequences to hiding materials or only disclosing partial records. Those include tax implications, loss of substantial amounts of money, unnecessary legal fees, and court appearances.
Trying to scam the court, especially about things like the period of or conditions of separation, is NEVER a good idea. In addition to causing problems with the procedural aspects of a lawsuit in North Carolina, submitting false materials in court is a crime in NC.Tip # 3 if You Must Post Online, Keep it Positive and Keep it Clean
North Carolina divorce lawyers are famous for saying this: Stay off Social Media. If you’re a blogger or like sharing your life online, even if it’s marked “private,” it can come out. Anything and everything you say and do online, through social media, especially if it is inappropriate, will come to light. Being snarky online to your “ex” or their family never comes off as a positive thing. Don’t share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat how your spouse is a bad mother or sorry husband.
It may make you feel good in the short-term, but the long-term consequences are terrible. Posting embarrassing, degrading, and hateful materials on social media does not improve the situation. Negative comments will make the separation and divorce more difficult and more expensive.
If you’re looking for empathy, talk to a support group, friends, and family. Limit your postings. Consider what pictures or videos can do to HURT you. Social media rarely makes the divorce process less painful. If anything, social media tends to make the whole process last longer.Tip # 4 Don’t Do Anything Petty That Friends Recommend
Revenge isn’t smart. Again, it may feel good to hurt your spouse and their family. But, it is not healthy. It doesn’t bring you any closer to the finish line. Make no mistake, divorce is not fun. The longer they take, the more contentious they are in litigation, the more expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining it will be to you.Tip # 5 Don’t Send Nasty Text Messages or Emails
Never say anything negative to your spouse, their friends, their employer, their family, or anyone they know. Being negative and hateful during separation makes it harder to resolve things. People want to try to punish one another. That makes it harder for attorneys to do their jobs, to negotiate the best deal for you, and to get you, unscathed, through the legal process of divorce and separation in North Carolina.
Being nasty while it may feel good for a while, is ultimately less efficient. It normally indicates how unstable the person SENDING emails and texts really is.
Don’t send emails and text messages to tell your husband or wife that they’re a bad person, a bad wife, or a bad father.Tip # 6 Don’t Withhold the Children – Do Not Use the Kids as a Tool
“Oh, I’d never do that. I’d never use the kids that way in my divorce.” While most people think that they wouldn’t do that going into a separation, things can get nasty. Things can be said that are hurtful. Emotions run high once the reality of divorce sets in. It’s entirely normal to be angry and upset about things that may have been said.
Sometimes being the bigger person isn’t easy. It can be downright hard. Divorce often doesn’t feel very fair. People react poorly at times. They may not even realize what they are doing. Having your ex-wife or ex-husband around your kids may even sicken you.
Even if all that is completely reasonable and true, do NOT withhold the children from the other spouse. It makes the parties look petty. If anything, the court may determine that’s not being a good parent. Denying visitation is expensive, because it ultimately causes unnecessary court appearances and litigation. It makes the parties to a separation and divorce dislike one-another even more.Tip # 7 Don’t Call Your Lawyer Every Time Your Spouse Does Something You Don’t Like
While divorce lawyers in Charlotte are called “Attorneys and Counselors at Law,” that doesn’t mean we’re professional therapists. Don’t get us wrong: lawyers will normally listen as long as you want to talk.
Family lawyers charge legal fees in divorce cases based on time. Most firms break down billing to 1/10th of hours, which is in six minute increments. It doesn’t matter if you talk for 30 seconds or 6 minutes, you should expect to get a bill for, “.10 hour” for discussing whatever you’ve called about.
Here’s what happens: you get a MONUMENTAL legal bill. It’s a mistake to think, “Oh, we were only talking about the separation agreement” for about five minutes. Why did they charge me for the rest of the time?” It’s very easy to forget this: If you are talking to your Charlotte divorce lawyer, they are likely billing you.
Your N.C. divorce lawyer is not your counselor. Your family law attorney is not your support group. The person who helps draft legal documents and lawsuits is not family, your pastor, or close friend.
Lawyers want to help. Lawyers care. Lawyers want what is best for you. But the single greatest mistake many people make is paying a lawyer to listen to them when they feel down or unsure about themselves emotionally.Tip # 8 Don’t Look for Reasons to be Hurt
While it may seem hard to acknowledge fault, especially if someone cheated during the marital relationship, you both likely did things wrong during the course of the marriage. Both spouses have made mistakes. You are getting separated.
You will be getting a divorce. The sooner the better. Don’t wallow in the situation.
Nothing will EVER justify an affair or marital infidelity. One side may most-definitely be “at fault” in the grand scheme of things. But in NC divorce court, fault isn’t necessary to file a claim.
The only condition to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina is separation between the spouses for one year, and meeting legal residency requirements. That does not mean an affair or marital unfaithfulness cannot have consequences.
It may also be possible to bring a lawsuit for money damages for Alienation of Affections or Criminal Conversation when a third-party was involved in an affair with your spouse.
It is just better to focus on moving forward. In the long run it’s more healthy for you. It will resolve in a more speedy resolution to the divorce and separation. Ultimately, that is the goal. The finances will eventually be worked out.Tip # 9 Don’t Degrade the Other Parent in Front of the Children
What you say and how you act affects your children. They’re often caught in the middle of divorce proceedings. Emotions run high when it comes to children. That’s both normal and expected.
It’s important not to make kids feel they have been unfaithful to one parent. Sometimes parents may not even realize the children are around them. How you act during separation and divorce can damage children, even if they are very small or infants.
They may be in the household or near the phone when you complain, “I can’t believe this!”
Children hear everything. Children also repeat things. Children are like sponges. They may not understand fully what is going on in the family, but they still feel emotion.
It’s normal for the individual parents to look for validation for their side of the argument. NEVER use children for your validation.
If possible, avoid litigation. Putting a child on the stand is traumatic. Despite every effort to protect them, it can be a horrible experience for the kids. It’s also not in the best interests of the children.
Children can also use one parent against another. “If you don’t allow me to do this, I want to go live with dad.” That can make parents afraid to parent. Children need stability. Courts in North Carolina are required, under state family law, to above all, consider the best interests of the children.
That often involves SOME level of co-parenting. It may require legal custody with joint visitation. Chances are, even if you despise your spouse, courts tend to want both parents involved in raising their children. That means there must be some sort of co-parenting going on.
Counseling may help people to get along. It may help establish things that are important to both of you as parents.
Treat the other person respectfully. Children are part of both parents. They realize that. If you speak in hateful terms about your spouse, children can easily feel you are in effect putting part of them down too.Tip # 10 Don’t Use Your Children as Messengers
Children should NEVER be a go-between for parents. Never involve them in money conversations, such as discussing child support.
Avoid saying things like, “Tell your mom I’m not giving the full amount because I bought you clothes.” It makes your child or children feel bad. They don’t want to seem like an expense or burden to anyone, especially their parents.
Don’t involve minors in scheduling, saying things like, “Tell your dad I’ll drop you off at XXX.” Children should not be part of or in the middle of visitation plans. A child may forget. Messages may not get through. Mistakes then become the child’s fault.Tip # 11 Don’t Interfere With the Other Parent’s Time With the Kids
NEVER cut into your former spouse’s time with the children. It also can been seen as an unreasonable denial of visitation. Such interference can easily become a factor in the court’s consideration of custody. An unreasonable denial of visitation adversely affects the court’s perspective. One of the primary roles or jobs as a parent is to encourage the relationship with BOTH parents. Treat the other parent as an adult, even if you don’t personally believe they are acting in a reciprocal manner.