Financial Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

Written by Jonathan Breeden

January 10, 2018

You can wake up one day and decide to file for divorce immediately. However, you will be better prepared for your divorce and to fight for what you deserve if you do your research first. You should consult with a divorce lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the best way for you to move forward. An experienced attorney from Breeden Law Office can advise you of your rights, your options, the steps that will help you in the future, and how to prepare for the financial aspects of dissolving your marriage.

To speak with a North Carolina divorce attorney, call us today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule your initial consultation.

Financial Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce

It is rare for a divorce to have little-to-no financial ramifications for you and your children. In most cases, your budget will change significantly. You need to be prepared for what a divorce will mean for your financial situation, not only in terms of the cost of the divorce, but what your finances will look like when the divorce is over.

Before filing for a divorce, speak with an attorney and:

  • Gather your financial documents. You may be the type of person with all of your financial documents carefully organized in one place. You may also be the kind of person who is not sure where your last tax return went. In either case, gather your bank statements, credit card files, retirement account, investment statements, and other important records so you are up-to-date on your assets and debts. Also, gather the past few years of tax returns. How far you need to go back depends on your family’s financial situation. If there is any confusion or concern regarding you or your spouse’s finances, speak with your attorney and an accounting professional about what documentation you need. Depending on your situation, your attorney may recommend keeping copies of these documents outside of your home, such as at a trusted family member’s house or in a safe deposit box.
  • Pull a credit report. You should pull a credit report to review your accounts and debts. However, this is particularly important if you are not sure what your spouse has been up to with the finances. Your spouse may have credit lines or loans you are unaware of that impact your credit.
  • Begin to separate your finances. When you are moving toward a divorce, it is time to start separating your finances from your spouse’s. If you do not already have your own checking account for your earnings, open one. If you do not have any of your own credit cards, consider applying for one. However, this does not mean you do not pay toward your shared expenses and debts. It simply means avoiding the use of shared accounts. If you are unsure about what accounts to open on your own, speak with an experienced accountant or financial planner.
  • Save for court costs and attorneys’ fees. A difficult aspect of divorce is the cost. You will need to prepare to pay court costs and attorneys’ fees. If you know you or your spouse intend to file for divorce in the near future, begin to set money aside for these expenses. If your spouse controls the family finances, do your best to set aside funds they cannot access. It may be necessary to look for work or ask trusted friends and/or family for help.
  • Avoid significant financial decisions. When possible, avoid making significant financial decisions. Not only can it be difficult to make objectively sound choices during such an emotional time, it could also impact the outcome of the divorce. For instance, if you make a number of large purchases while still married and not separated, your spouse may argue you were intentionally wasting money prior to the divorce, and they could negotiate a property settlement.
  • Update your will and other estate documents. A divorce can take quite a bit of time, and if something were to happen to you before the divorce is finalized, your spouse would have rights to your property. To mitigate this, once you are separated, speak with your attorney about updating your will, life insurance policies, powers of attorney, or any other estate planning documents. You can ensure as much as possible goes to your children or other loved ones if you pass away before the divorce is finalized.

Call a Divorce Lawyer for Assistance

Preparing for a divorce can be difficult. However, taking these steps and others enables you to head into a divorce with a full understanding of the situation, what you are entitled to, and what is not worth fighting for. This knowledge can save you a great deal of time, energy, and stress.

For more information on what to do before filing for divorce, call Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970, or contact us online to schedule a consultation.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden