If you are facing the prospect of Separation or Divorce in North Carolina, there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself and your family. Every client I consult in my Raleigh Divorce Law Practice is advised to take action to protect their finances, credit, property, custodial rights, and evidence. So what can you do to prepare for separation and divorce and protect your financial future and custodial time with your children?
1. ENSURE ACCESS TO CASH. One thing you are going to need when your facing marital separation or divorce is access to money. You could be facing legal fees, radically different monthly expenses, litigation costs, and the lack of financial assistance from your spouse. Even if you think your case will settle, you are going to need money to protect yourself legally and pay bills until things are finalized.
- Open a separate bank account
- Transfer a portion of any savings into your account(consult your attorney about the amount)
- Take a cash advance from credit cards if necessary
- Consider suspending joint credit cards or accounts
- Prepare a budget and plan
- Talk with family about borrowing money if necessary, and formalize any loans
*Remember that all actions must be accounted for later, and anything you take is for purposes of ensuring you have access to money during the period of separation. You are not trying to eliminate your spouses access to cash or permanently “take” money. You are simply acting to make certain assets are not wasted and you are in a position to live and obtain the assistance of counsel.
2. PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY. Depending on the circumstances of your separation, you should consider what property you need or belongs to you and act to make sure its protected. For example, if you are leaving, try to take the property you need when you leave. If your spouse is leaving or has left, you can take actions to ensure your spouse cannot return without permission and remove more property. If you have valuable personal property(stock certificates, bonds, collections, art), remove it from your home and store it in a safe place. Naturally every case is different, and in some cases these actions may not be necessary. The principal to follow here is simply to remember it is better to have what you need than have to ask for it. Each party has an equal claim to marital assets. Do not sell or transfer any assets legally however until you consult with your divorce attorney.
3. PLAN CUSTODY. Do not move out without your children or without at least taking steps to ensure your custodial rights. It is dangerous to count on an verbal agreement or simple hope you can work out visitation later. Consult your child custody attorney regarding exactly what you can do to protect your custodial rights in high conflict situations. Simply moving out or allowing your spouse to move out with the kids without any formalized custodial arrangement can make it very difficult for you to see your children. No matter how “reasonable” you feel your spouse is, or how well you seem to be getting along now, it is a tremendous gamble to count on the good will of an estranged spouse when it comes to seeing your kids.
4. GATHER EVIDENCE. Obtain copies of financial information, photograph or video tape assets, copy and secure evidence (ensure legality with your attorney) and obtain any other information you may need before you separate. In some cases, a forensic computer scan can be valuable as well, however you need to carefully consult your attorney to ensure that anything you do is legal and does not violate federal or state law. The key is to obtain the information you need and have a legal right to obtain prior to separating as you will likely lose your opportunity to do so.
If you are facing the prospect of separation or divorce in North Carolina, it is essential to examine and protect your finances, ensure you have the property you need, and have a custodial plan in place. Each divorce has its own set of challenges, and you before you take any action it is essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to learn your rights and formulate a plan to protect your interests. A divorce lawyer can help you ensure your access to funds, handle monthly support issues, plan property distribution, and ensure custodial rights. Whatever you do, avoid letting the emotions of the moment compel you to make important decisions about separation or divorce without planning for the future.
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