Prior to pursuing a divorce in North Carolina there are a few steps to consider to be sure that you are making the best decisions. Those steps include:
- Speaking with a marriage counselor or other professional who may be able to save your marriage. A marriage counselor can benefit you in more ways than one. If you don’t think there is anything left to salvage from your marriage, a counselor can help you cope with the end of your relationship. Either you and your spouse can seek counseling together, or you can go on your own.
- Speaking with an attorney before making any lasting decisions. You may think that your divorce will be quite simple either because you and your spouse weren’t married for a long time or because you haven’t accumulated extensive marital assets, but it is still in your best interest to speak with an attorney. Even if you do not hire an attorney to handle your case full time, having an attorney that you can consult with throughout your case to gain a better understanding of North Carolina law can affect how you fare in your divorce proceedings.
- Do not move out of the marital home without consulting an attorney. If you leave the marital home without good cause, you may trigger a fault ground that will require you to pay alimony or prevent you from receiving alimony. Also, leaving your home may result in being unable to return to your home until the court conducts a division of property. Unless your spouse is violent and it is necessary to leave the home to protect yourself and/or your children, you should remain in the marital home until you speak with an attorney.
- Speaking with your attorney before discussing any extramarital affairs you may have had. Not only is adultery illegal in the state of North Carolina, but illicit sexual behavior could also cause you to pay additional alimony to a dependent spouse. A finding of fault is not necessary to award the dependent spouse alimony; however, a judge is allowed to consider evidence of fault when calculating an award of alimony.
- Protecting your assets before you begin discussing a divorce with your spouse. One way to safeguard your assets is to actually take possession of the things you intend to continue using, such as: vehicles, jewelry, cash, furniture, or any other items that can be liquidated by your spouse. Another way to protect your assets is to file a Lis Pendens in your local Deeds Office. This puts third parties on notice of your claim to have an interest in the real estate against which the Lis Pendens is docketed. This will simply let other interested parties know that pending litigation may affect your real property. Also, a Lis Pendens will essentially put your property on hold so that a sale of the property cannot happen behind your back. You can also keep your spouse from disposing of any property behind your back by getting an injunction restraining your spouse from transferring or liquidating the property. An attorney can also use an injunction to get your separate property returned to you, where your separate property is in the possession of your spouse and the spouse refuses to give it to you.