Things To Do Before Divorce

Written by Jonathan Breeden

October 4, 2021

Separation and divorce are among life’s most stressful events. Considering or filing for divorce is traumatic even under the best circumstances.

Read on to learn how to reduce stress and uncertainty by taking these steps before getting divorced.

Is It Really Over?

Before you file for divorce, consider going to a marriage counselor. Even if your spouse refuses to go, investing a little time is worth it if it saves your marriage. Your marriage might be truly over, but you could also learn valuable coping skills to help you in the coming months.

Psychology Today has a list of North Carolina marriage counselors.

Don’t Move Out of the Family Home

Even if the home is not in your name, moving out before you file for divorce can jeopardize or limit your share of marital property. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. Instead of a 50/50 split in every divorce, the court considers many factors. One of these influences is whether or not you remained in the family home.

It’s challenging to share a home with someone you know you will divorce, but at least wait until you speak to an attorney.

Exception for Domestic Violence

No one should live in fear or experience abuse and violence. If you have an abusive spouse, remaining in the family home after announcing your intention to divorce is dangerous for you and your children.

Do what you must to get to a safe place. Then, you can look for legal remedies, such as protective orders from the court.

Before You Tell Your Spouse, Talk to an Attorney

You’ve probably talked to your best friend, a family member, or a spiritual advisor about your plans. Still, before you tell your spouse, speak to a divorce attorney. They can advise you on what your next steps might be, from protecting your assets to ensuring that your kids are okay.

A Safe Space to Share

When you hire an attorney, everything you discuss is privileged information. Your attorney cannot share what you tell them about your finances, living situation, and even about an extramarital affair.

Don’t Share About an Affair Yet

It is tempting to confess to your ex about an extramarital affair. However, don’t say a word until you talk to an attorney about the negative consequences of admitting to infidelity.

North Carolina is one of the few states in which adultery is illegal. Adults found guilty of extramarital affairs could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. While it’s highly unlikely for a cheating spouse to face criminal charges, they are far more likely to face financial consequences.

Adultery, Alimony & Marital Property

Adultery is among the state’s 13 grounds for divorce. When a spouse presents proof of an affair, they may ask the court to offer special consideration when it’s time to pay (or receive) alimony. If the infidelity led to financial misconduct, the court could award more assets to the non-cheating spouse and more debt to the spouse who cheated.

Get Your Finances in Order

If you’re the higher-earning spouse or sole breadwinner, you should know that your spouse could be entitled to stock options, 401(k)s, and pension plans. If you’re the lower-earning spouse or a stay-at-home parent with no income, you’ll want to learn all you can about your spouse’s income and benefits.

If you don’t have access to them already, gather current bank and financial statements.

Take Possession of Assets

Make a list of all assets, including cars, furniture, cash on hand, jewelry, precious metals, and other valuables. Take possession, if possible, to avoid your spouse liquidating or hiding them from you. If you cannot realistically control these assets, use your cell phone camera to take pictures.

Put Potential Creditors On Notice

You may file a Lis Pendens document in the Deeds Office of any county where you own real property (nationwide, not just property in North Carolina). This document gives legal notice to third parties that there is pending litigation that may affect the property.

File an Injunction Against Unauthorized Liquidation

An attorney can file an injunction prohibiting your spouse from unauthorized transfer or liquidation of your property. You can also use an injunction to compel your spouse to return your property in their possession.

Marital & Separate Property

Generally, any assets or debts acquired during the marriage are considered marital property and are divided appropriately. Any assets acquired before the marriage or inheritances to one spouse from a third party are considered separate property. Separate property is not divided during divorce.

Get a Separate Bank Account & Credit Card

Talk to your attorney about transferring money from a joint bank account into an account under your name. If you are the lower-earning spouse, you want to be sure that you have funds to care for yourself and your kids. An attorney can also seek temporary spousal and child support while you’re waiting for your final decree of divorce.

Start Establishing Credit of Your Own

Getting a credit card in your name only has several benefits. First, you start establishing personal credit. Second, you reduce the risk of a vengeful spouse racking up debt that you might have to cover. Finally, you can pay security deposits for utilities and a new place to live, if necessary, without your spouse’s knowledge. This privacy is vital if your spouse is abusive.

Talk to an Experienced NC Divorce Attorney

Deciding to divorce is among the most challenging moments in a person’s life. Even when both parties agree that the marriage is over, ending it is stressful.

Working with an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney helps make this transition easier for you and your children. For over 20 years, attorney Jonathan Breeden has helped countless clients through this emotional and complex process. We assist high-asset couples, active military members, and LGBTQ families.

Before you divorce, call the Breeden Law Office for a confidential consultation. Use our online form or call (919) 661-4970.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden