5 Things To Do Before You Even Think About Getting A Divorce
By Lee Rosen
There are many steps to take to protect yourself in a divorce. This article will get you started. Your best bet
is to talk to a lawyer before you do anything.
1. Talk to a Marriage Counselor or other professional who may be able to help you save your marriage.
Even if you don’t think there’s hope for the marriage, “divorce counseling” can help you discover what went
wrong, how to cope, and how to pick up the pieces and go on. Don’t wait for your spouse to participate. If you
don’t know how to find a qualified counselor, our firm will be glad to recommend one or you can check out the
directory of professionals at stayhappilymarried.com. Your employment, social or religious contacts might also
2. Talk to an attorney before you do anything.
Even if you don’t end up hiring an attorney to handle your separation or divorce, you would be well advised to
get as much information as you can before you even discuss divorce with your spouse. There’s a lot to know about
divorce in North Carolina…our laws are complex and even the simplest situation can be very confusing to families
already in distress. Actions you take now may very well affect the outcome of your divorce (see #3) and you need to
understand your options ahead of time…not some time down the road when it may be too late to alter the outcome.
Click here to find attorneys who are well versed in the intricacies of North Carolina divorce law.
3. Do not move out of the marital home without talking to an attorney first.
Leaving the house without a good reason may cause you to pay alimony or may result in your inability to collect
alimony. If you leave the house, you may also be unable to return until after a court divides the property. This
process might take more than a year. The best advice is to stay in the house until after you talk with an attorney
unless your spouse is violent. If your spouse is violent, you must take all steps necessary to protect yourself and
4. If you have been involved in any extramarital affairs, talk to a lawyer before you discuss this with your
spouse or anyone else.
In this case, honesty may not be the best policy. In addition to the fact that adultery is illegal in some
states, admission of an affair can have other dire consequences. If your spouse is a candidate for alimony, any
illicit sexual behavior on your part (during the marriage…which includes the time you are separated) could end up
costing you thousands in additional alimony payments.
5. Take concrete steps to safeguard your assets before you and your spouse begin discussing divorce.
One of these steps is to take possession of certain assets during separation, especially those assets you wish
to be using, such as furniture and vehicles, and those assets that might be liquidated by your spouse, including
precious gems and stones, other collectibles, cash, and bearer bonds.
Another self-protective step is to file what is known as a Lis Pendens in the Deeds Office of any county where
you and/or your spouse own real property. The lis pendens puts third parties on notice of your claim to have an
interest in the real estate against which the lis pendens is docketed. The lis pendens is basically a notice of
pending litigation that may affect real property. A properly recorded and served lis pendens clouds the title to
the property, preventing an effective sale of the property behind your back. The rules regarding a lis pendens
contain very specific requirements, all of which are spelled out in section 1-116 and the following sections of the
North Carolina General Statutes.
A third possible step to protect the assets of your marriage is to get an injunction restraining your spouse
from transferring or otherwise disposing of any property covered by the restraining order. Your 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. The equitable distribution statute also provides a means
for you to obtain an interim distribution of marital property, pending a final resolution of the property matter.
Such an interim allocation could, for instance, give you much needed funds on which to live.
Other protective measures you might consider in your divorce planning include: (1) protecting your own credit
rating by freezing or closing joint cards and by blocking your spouse's access to other joint credit such as a home
equity loan; (2) closing joint bank accounts and opening accounts in your own, individual name; (3) changing the
name of the responsible party on utility and other bills; and (4) spending where possible your spouse's separate
property first, marital property next, and your own separate property last.
While this list will help you get started on the right track, it is by no means a complete list of all the
things you need to do and know if you are considering a divorce. For more information about the rights and duties
of separating and divorcing husbands and wives visit http://www.rosen.com. You’ll find a complete law library,
downloadable divorce forms, a legal fee calculator, a child support calculator, lists of professionals who can help
you and stories from people just like you who have survived divorce.