One universal truth about divorce is that it is rarely an entirely pleasant experience for anyone. Understandably, the end of a marriage and the prospect of beginning to transition from the life you shared together to a new journey on your own can be an emotional and overwhelming prospect. The good news is, that while there is really no way to entirely alleviate the stress of the divorce process, there are things you can do to make it better. One of those things is to plan ahead. As with most things in life, planning ahead can reduce the anxiety of having to make last minute decisions, or feeling as if you are constantly stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed.
At the Law Office of Dustin S. McCrary, we understand the divorce process thoroughly – and how complicated and overwhelming it can initially seem. In that spirit, we are proud to offer this helpful checklist of considerations for those considering, or in the initial phases of the divorce process, in the hope that it might be help make a stressful situation slightly less so. Both prior to and during legal separation, during the divorce process itself, and even after the divorce is finalized, taking these steps can be very helpful.
Perhaps you are in the very initial stages of the divorce process. You may have just made the decision to divorce, or you may still be considering that decision. If so, it can be wise to:
- Consult with a Marriage Counselor: If you have yet to consult with a marriage counselor, this can always be a wise step prior to moving forward with any other decisions. Marriage counseling, when attended regularly, can be extremely beneficial. A qualified, experienced counselor will be able to look at the relationship difficulties you are having, and will often be able to help couples see objectively what they might not be able to see on their own in the midst of their emotional distress. There are many circumstances that are difficult to see clearly when you are so intimately connected to the situation. Having an objective third party to talk to can help you see what you otherwise might not. In many cases, it can help couples save their marriage, but even if it does not do so, it can help you to deal with your emotions in a healthy and productive way.
- Contact an Attorney: In North Carolina, as in most states, the divorce process can be complicated, and the law can be complex. As a result, prior to moving out of the marital home, or making any significant decisions, it is very important to consult with an attorney who understands the law, and who can advise you as to the best steps forward to ensure that you are protecting your rights, and not taking any actions that may have an unexpected impact later.
- Remain in the Marital Home: It is very important that you do not move out of the marital home prior to consulting with an attorney. Leaving the marital home prior to officially separating from a spouse may have unwanted consequences, including potentially affecting alimony and other matters you may later address during the divorce process. As a result, consulting with an attorney prior to making any moves is highly recommended.
- Gather and Update Important Documents: Part of what makes divorce so overwhelming for many people is simply the sheer amount of information to wade through and process as you attempt to move from one life to two. While this is understandable, and while it can’t be avoided entirely, you can help to make the process easier by taking as many of the following steps as possible:
- Make a copy of any prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements;
- Make copies of bank account statements dating back for at least the past couple of years;
- Make copies of any paperwork regarding your monthly mortgage payment, car payment, student loans, credit card statements, and any other debt upon which you regularly pay;
- Make copies of W2’s and other pertinent tax documents dating back for the last two to three years;
- Make copies of any trust documents;
- Make copies of any wills executed during the marriage;
- Obtain copies of property deeds or other deeds of ownership with respect to either marital or separate property that may be divisible in a divorce
- Obtain copies of all insurance policies owned, including automobile, homeowner’s or life insurance policies;
- Make a list of all assets you own, including not only accounts, but also property like furniture, art, and/or jewelry along with approximated values;
- Obtain copies of pertinent information regarding any savings or investment accounts;
- Obtain copies of pertinent information regarding any retirement or pension accounts;
- Update your will: Though disinheriting a spouse is disallowed under North Carolina law, it is still wise to amend your will for the future regarding power of attorney and other important wishes in case something were to happen to you;
- Update any power of attorney or other advanced health directive documents;
- Request a copy of your credit report.
Obtaining and copying this information may certainly be tedious and time-consuming to some degree, but in the long run it will likely save you a good deal of time and stress as you begin the divorce process.
- If You Have Children: If you and your spouse have children together, you will likely have to sort through issues of child custody and child support as part of the divorce process. Without question, this can be one of the most emotionally difficult and trying aspects of a divorce. While nothing can entirely prepare you for this aspect of the process, you can take some steps to make it easier, including:
- Making copies of your children’s class schedule;
- Obtaining any and all pertinent school and/or daycare information;
- Making a list of afterschool activities and contact information;
- Making copies of any documentation pertinent to child care expenses;
- Making copies of any pertinent information regarding children’s medical providers and/or medical issues;
- Updating your child’s school of any address and/or transportation changes.
Taking these steps can help you remember important information and keep clear documentation regarding your children’s daily routines and expenses should it be necessary as you proceed with a divorce.
- Change Your Email Address: If you and your spouse shared an email address, be certain to create a new email account both for purposes of linking your online accounts and paying your expenses, as well as for communicating with your attorney and for other communications which you might prefer your spouse not to read.
- Address Any Business Affairs: If you and your spouse own a business together, you should consult with an attorney prior to taking any steps toward a divorce. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney will be able to help guide you through the steps necessary to protect your business interests, and will save you a good deal of headache in the long run as you begin to sort through these matters.
In the end, while divorce is never easy, it can be manageable. A large part of helping to ensure that it is manageable is to make sure you have taken as many steps as you can to adequately prepare for the process. At the Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about these important preparatory steps, or about any other concerns you may have as you contemplate divorce and what it might mean for you. Call us today – We look forward to helping with you soon.