5 things you need to do BEFORE separating from your spouse.

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Separating from your spouse is not an easy decision, but one that is necessary in order to begin the divorce process in North Carolina. If you’ve reached that point in your marriage and you are ready to take that next steps in the process, this article is for you. My name is Stephen Corby and I am an attorney in Charlotte NC. I have handled hundreds of divorce cases throughout the state and compiled this list of the most important things you should do before you move out.

1. Get Copies of ALL the Financial Records: Tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, 401k statements, investment portfolios, pay stubs, absolutely everything. Arguments over what accounts exist, how much everyone really makes, and what money was moved are staples in every divorce case. You can’t rely on your spouse to be honest when it comes to the marital assets. The more information I have the better the chances of navigating them to a positive financial outcome.

2. Have Money to Live On: I can’t tell you the number of people who come into my office and told me that after the left their spouse completely cleaned out the joint bank account. Joint means joint. There is nothing we can do to stop them from running down to the bank and taking it all out; that’s why you need to have a plan. I recommend that my clients take no more than half of the money out of their joint accounts and move it into separate accounts with only their name on it. This will keep everyone honest and ensure you have what you need to pay the bills. Also, everyone needs to understand that divorce process can take a long time, so make sure you have a financial plan in place to get you by for a few months.

3. Change Your Passwords: To everything and anything. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your cell phone, bank accounts, and of course your email. Hacking your ex’s accounts has become a national pastime in our field. I can’t tell you how often my clients tell me that their exes changed the passwords to their own Facebook accounts and now my clients can’t access them. Information is key in this process and the more one side has the better off they are. Change your passwords and security questions to something no one could possibly guess. Oh, and at the very least don’t use your birthday!

4. Take Them Off Your Credit Cards: Many couples have multiple cards for their accounts. You need to call and cancel those cards and order new ones ASAP. If you are the primary account holder and they are an authorized user you need to act fast before they run up the bill to your maximum. You are still on the hook with your credit card company and trust me, they don’t care that you didn’t authorize your ex from making that transaction. The last thing you want is your spouse using your own credit card to pay for the attorney you are fighting against.

5. Take Your Personal Items With You: It might be awhile before you get another opportunity to get back into the marital home. Although you don’t lose your rights to the property you leave behind it can become incredibly difficult to get to those items. Even short term interim motions asking the court for items can take months to schedule. In that time there is nothing stopping your ex from going to the pawn shop or hiding your assets. Even if the court awards you money for the items sold or destroyed there is no way to replace the sentimental value. If it’s irreplaceable to you, make sure it comes with you when you move out.

6. (Bonus Tip) See An Attorney First: It’s well worth the time and money to schedule an appointment with an attorney before you decide to separate. They can talk to you about your goals, explain your likely outcomes, and help you make sure it’s a smooth transition. Even if you don’t want to hire an attorney for the process it’s important to learn your rights before making such a large life decision. If you’d like to talk to one of our experienced attorneys we’d love to speak with you. Call our office at 704-248-7683 or go to our consultation page to schedule a meeting with us.

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