Issues to Consider Before You Separate

When parties separate, it is not unusual for their separation to be preceded by a heated argument or domestic violence. High drama often sets the stage for a separation to occur with little, if any, opportunity for advance planning.

When a spouse hastily vacates the marital home, that spouse may no longer have access to the home where property is located and important financial records may be maintained. If your marriage is on the rocks and a separation seems inevitable, the following suggestions may help you prepare and protect your interests:

1. Make copies of all financial records (particularly recent account statements), including, but not limited to, mortgage and lines of credit, retirement and pension accounts, bank accounts, insurance policies, auto loans, and credit card statements. If you are unable to make copies, then make a detailed list of all companies and financial institutions, including names, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, and most recent account balances or payment information.

2. Obtain complete copies of your last three years tax returns, together with all W-2’s, 1099’s and other records that were used to prepare the returns.

3. Prepare an inventory of the contents of safe deposit boxes and household furnishings, particularly items of value such as jewelry, art, antiques, coins, and collectibles. If possible, take photographs or make a videotape of them.

4. Do not make unnecessary large expenditures immediately prior to the separation. It is easier to divide liquid assets in a divorce than it is to divide credit card debt and big-screen TVs.

5. Your abandonment of your spouse and the marriage may constitute marital misconduct.

Consult with an experienced family law attorney who can give you advice based on your unique circumstances. This is especially important if there are likely to be disputes regarding child custody, child support, and/or spousal support, or a likelihood that your spouse may attempt to secrete or dispose of marital property.

Know your legal rights and responsibilities before the separation occurs. Don’t botch the exit.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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