Preparing for Separation

By Jim Warren

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Coming to grips with the end of your marriage is no small feat. In more than 30 years of practice as a family law attorney in Charlotte, I’ve seen folks prepare for separation and divorce the right way, and I’ve sure seen it done lots of wrong ways, too.

Unless you’re in a threatening situation (where you should immediately leave the home and seek a protective order), you should take clear-headed steps to prepare for separation.  First, you should see if there’s any chance of reconciliation. Many people choose to consult with a marriage counselor; these professionals have helped many save their marriages. Also, people turn to trusted advisors, such as pastors at church, which can also work wonders.

If you’ve determined that your marriage is beyond saving, there are a couple of routes you can go, and both may first involve consulting with an attorney. If your split is amicable and your financial assets simple in nature, you can come to an agreement properly memorialized that protects the rights of both when you have been separated for one year. You can obtain a no-fault divorce in North Carolina at relatively little time and expense. If your situation isn’t as friendly, and/or your financial situation is more complex, you need to consult an attorney. Deadlines loom, and your rights can be lost if not pursued timely.

One of the key points to making your situation as manageable as possible is for your attorney to draft a separation agreement that addresses possession of the marital home, child custody, spousal support, and division of assets.  Often, a well-conceived separation agreement can save a great deal of time, money, and trauma.

A separation agreement can also help you to hit the pause button on your marriage, so that you can document your entire financial situation for fair and lawful division of assets. You need to know that there can be property that is not subject to division, in which your spouse has little if any interest. You need to know what is marital and subject to division.

In addition to gathering copies of all financial statements and tax returns, many of our clients collect photo and video evidence of the family possessions, keeping a careful inventory of assets acquired both prior to and during the marriage.

Now let me give you the advice that’s hardest to follow: under no circumstances should you try to make life more difficult for your spouse and especially your children as you prepare to separate and divorce. If you’re providing health insurance for the family, keep it in place. Don’t have the water or electricity cut off just because it’s in your name. Consult an attorney before taking any action affecting your business or assets.

Avoid inflammatory actions regarding communications. Angering your spouse during a time of negotiation and/or litigation is on its face unwise and probably detrimental to your cause. If you’ve had any infidelities, this misconduct may be used against you, and the other person may be subject to liability.

If you are contemplating ending your marriage, don’t hesitate to call us at Warren Family Law. With our seasoned counsel, we can ensure you go about dissolving your marriage the right way, preparing for separation and divorce to protect your interest and look out for your children. Contact us today to get started.