Like many marriages during these stressful and uncertain times, yours may be going through some difficulties. Perhaps you and your spouse are fighting more, or you may have stopped communicating altogether. Are you thinking of divorce? Has one of you verbalized the thought in a heated exchange? Is the marriage really over, or are you simply blowing off steam in an angry moment?
Divorce is a serious and life-changing decision. It often creates emotional upheaval that is difficult to recover from quickly. In addition, the changes divorce brings about can create emotional and financial setbacks that often follow spouses for months or even years, especially if they do not prepare properly. Before you take steps to end your marriage, you will want to be certain it is the right choice and that you are well prepared.
Steps you can take now
If you and your spouse have exhausted options such as counseling or marriage therapy, you may want to discuss your legal alternatives first. Sometimes, hearing the hard facts from an experienced attorney can help with the decision-making process for someone who is on the fence about divorce. Once you file for divorce, the information you need may be more difficult to obtain, so even if you haven’t fully decided to end your marriage, this is a good time to get yourself ready. For example:
- Gather the paperwork and documentation, such as your marriage license, recent tax returns, credit account information, and titles and deeds of your joint and individual assets.
- Learn what you need to know about the discover process, including how to know if your spouse is honestly disclosing his or her assets.
- Inventory your assets so you will know which may be off the table during property division and which may need professional valuation.
- Understand the tax ramifications of dividing some assets, such as retirement accounts.
- Resolve to handle the divorce with dignity and respect, which may ultimately result in a more favorable outcome and a less contentious future relationship with your ex.
While legal separation is not an option in North Carolina, you may still wish to draft a separation agreement. This will clarify many issues, such as who will pay your mortgage and utilities, how you will divide child custody, and whether one of you will pay support to the other during the time before your divorce is settled. You will want to be cautious and perhaps obtain legal advice about your separation agreement since these often become the starting point for divorce orders.