Written by Jonathan Breeden
Deciding to file or filing for divorce can feel overwhelming. Having a checklist helps you take control of the situation and feel more comfortable moving forward.
Learn what anyone seeking a divorce in North Carolina should have on their to-do list.
Whether you’ve decided to file for divorce, or you want to know your options, work with a divorce attorney who understands and supports your goals. You’ll discuss intensely personal issues. It’s essential to feel comfortable and confident with your lawyer.
Do you want to keep the house? Are you concerned about your safety when you tell your spouse you want a divorce? What about a jointly owned business? Write a specific list of what you would like to happen before, during, and after the divorce.
Compromise is inevitable, but you can create a baseline of “must-haves” in terms of child custody, division of property, and support.
Ask your attorney about revoking your spouse’s permission to speak on your behalf to creditors, banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies. Your attorney can also guide you if your spouse is your beneficiary or has power of attorney.
Make a note to update your will and healthcare surrogate after you’re divorced – you won’t want to keep your ex as a decision-maker.
Divorces and child custody issues can become heated. You don’t want to give your spouse access to personal information.
If you’re still living with your spouse, consider renting a post office box to keep your mail confidential.
Many married couples know each other’s passwords and access codes. Change them immediately. Remember to change your password for joint accounts that have separate access. Use biometrics (such as face ID or fingerprint) whenever possible.
Talk to your attorney about opening a credit card, bank account, or line of credit in your name. If you are the lower-earning spouse or a stay-at-home parent with no income, you’ll need to establish credit as a divorced or single person.
If you and your spouse own a business, ask your attorney about a business valuation. This process involves an objective appraiser who identifies assets, debts, and risks.
Make copies of business documents from the past five years, including:
Divide your list between debts and assets. Notate which items are marital or separate property. Marital property is any asset or debt acquired during the marriage. Separate property consists of assets and debts from before the marriage.
Your assets checklist should include:
Your debts checklist should include mortgages, credit card balances, and liens.
Compile financial and legal information from the last five years, including tax returns. If that’s not possible, go back as far as you can. This information helps you and your attorney establish your financial needs for child support, spousal support, and division of marital property.
You might be able to download many of these documents.
Talk to your attorney about staying in the house. If you simply cannot remain in the same household, consider taking possession of items you will need if you move out. You should also protect these items to avoid your spouse disposing of them without your consent.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state for marital assets and debts. Taking careful inventory makes it more difficult for your spouse to hide or liquidate assets.
Your lawyer (and your spouse’s lawyer) will want a complete list of personal information for all involved parties, including your children and stepchildren. You can write this information by hand or use a spreadsheet, but include the following:
Hopefully, you and your spouse can put aside your differences for the sake of your children. Most psychologists agree that both parents should tell their kids about the separation or divorce. You don’t want your children to learn about it from someone else or through a shouted argument with your spouse.
You and your spouse are the two people most heavily invested in your children’s future, health, and happiness. Despite your marriage ending, you probably don’t want your parenting plan decided by a judge. Work together – for the sake of the kids – on a reasonable parenting plan and visitation.
Since 2000, family law attorney Jonathan Breeden has helped clients navigate the legal and financial journey from marriage to divorce. Let our experienced and compassionate team help you.