Whether you come home one day to find your spouse has packed up and left or they simply tell you they want a divorce out of the blue, your first thought may not be how to prepare and protect your future. In fact, you’ll most likely be processing a variety of emotions – shock, disbelief, anger, sorrow – and this is completely normal.
However, you do need to protect yourself and plan ahead because even small actions can lead to large impacts on your future. To help you, our divorce attorneys in Raleigh are sharing five steps to take if your spouse leaves you.
Understanding Divorce in North Carolina
First, it’s important to realize that the timeline to divorce in North Carolina isn’t fast. There’s a required 12 month separation period that must be met before either party can file, then, even a simple divorce can take 90 days before a judge signs off on it. A contested divorce, in which property is divided and child custody & support must be solved, can take even longer.
Fortunately, you can use this separation period as an opportunity to not only process your emotions and work on healing, you can also use this time to determine your needs and goals in issues related to how property, custody, and other issues are determined.
1. Consult with a Divorce Attorney
The first step you need to take is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Many people think that they can work out arrangements with their spouse, and that having an attorney means a drawn out court battle with no chance for a civil, amicable separation. Often, the exact opposite is the case.
When two people try to work it out themselves, a lack of legal knowledge, forgotten promises, and bad outside advice often end up with them hiring attorneys anyway and requiring a judge to settle the terms of the divorce because their relationship has deteriorated to the point where they can’t sit down and negotiate. On the other hand, when you start the process with a divorce attorney who can advise you of your rights, act as a mediator during negotiations, and advocate on your behalf, it’s easier to remain civil.
2. Save All Communications
If your spouse leaves or asks for a divorce, avoid communicating over the phone or in person. Instead, if you must communicate directly, do so via text messages and emails so you can save them. This way, if your spouse promises something, such as saying they will pay for health insurance or that you can stay in the family home, or refuses something, this can help your case later on.
Additionally, you’ll have a record if they admit to something like adultery, drug use, or having an additional income. This can also affect the marital termination agreement related to custody, child support, and property distribution.
3. Create a Separation Agreement
You and your spouse will need to be separated for 12 months before filing for divorce. During this time, if you have joint property, children, or shared bills, those can’t just be ignored until your marital termination agreement is completed. Drafting a separation agreement isn’t a legal necessity, but it can be a beneficial tool that you and your spouse can use to outline common issues including:
- Who is responsible for certain shared debts and how they’re paid
- Who pays the mortgage or loan and upkeep on shared property
- Child support, custody, and visitation
- Maintaining health insurance
Many couples who create a separation agreement together with the assistance of their divorce lawyers will use this as the foundation for their divorce settlement. This saves time, money, and stress during the actual divorce process.
4. Protect Your Finances
If your spouse leaves you or asks for a divorce, (or even if you are planning a separation) make sure you protect yourself financially. Divide any shared savings accounts or liquid assets and place your portion into your own bank account that your spouse can’t access as this ensures you have solvency if needed. You also want to restrict or suspend the ability to extend lines of credit to prevent your spouse from taking out a home equity loan or other action that could harm your credit.
However, you don’t want to drain the accounts or restrict total financial access because this is a form of financial misconduct and could damage your case in the future. You want to protect yourself from financial hardship, not act with spite by preventing your spouse from supporting themselves during the divorce proceedings.
5. Leave the Legal Issues to Your Attorney
When you’re blindsided by a divorce, you’re most likely in a fragile emotional place. Trying to balance this as well as attempt to juggle legal issues with your spouse is too much, and you may end up inadvertently harming your case (and your future) while you’re vulnerable.
If your spouse tries to convince you to give up your rights, reduce child support, give them property, or do anything that would affect your marital termination agreement, end the conversation and discuss the issue with your divorce attorney. Your attorney will look at these matters and determine what’s best for you so you don’t lose out on what is rightfully yours.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Divorce Lawyers in Raleigh Today
We understand that your spouse leaving is a heartbreaking time. Having a divorce attorney who will fight on your behalf allows you to process your emotions and heal without putting your future in jeopardy. The Doyle Law Group has a team of experienced, dedicated family law attorneys who will do everything possible to help you move forward with security and confidence. Schedule a consultation today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.
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