Separation and Divorce are difficult concepts for any person or couple to handle. In addition, the time in your life surrounding these events or concepts can be one of the most traumatic times for anyone. Divorce is a difficult personal and legal process and it can be especially complicated in North Carolina as we do have a legal separation phase. As with any major life decision, you could benefit from thinking things through and not making a rash or emotional decision. Here are the Top 5 Things to Consider prior to a separation before divorce.

At McCollum Law, PC we believe in looking at all factors and working with the individual for the best outcome possible. Separation doesn’t always mean divorce; many couples take time. Sometimes the best and most healthy thing that can be done is to take a step back, to evaluate one’s life and one’s needs and to look at options for the future. Sometimes people take a step back and reevaluate and determine they want to work on their marriage. Often times people move further apart and a divorce becomes a reality. Regardless, it is important to make cool headed and smart decisions. To that end we have come up with 5 Things everyone should do before separating.

1- Evaluate Where You Are

It is important to know where you are in your relationship. Was there an event that made you consider separating or ending your relationship? Has this been something that has been coming for a long time? Have you already tried working on your relationship and that proved futile? Everyone is at a different place in their relationship and every relationship is different. It is important to begin this journey knowing where you are personally and what should be done before seeking to make changes. Often meeting with a counselor or mental health professional can be a valuable tool, even if you only meet with them once or a few times to help you organize your thoughts in a safe atmosphere. Sometimes relationship counseling can be helpful if you are trying to make this decision as a couple.

2. Talk to a Lawyer

Earlier we talked about not making an emotional decision. Don’t do that. Many people just want to leave, and they move out of their home before ever consulting a lawyer. Moving out of the marital home has legal and other consequences, before taking this action you need to understand these consequences and make an informed decision. This is true of all the decisions you make in regard to separation and divorce. Talking to an attorney is a valuable tool, even if in the end you and your spouse don’t separate or you do and work things out without hiring a lawyer. Getting advice in the beginning can help you understand the implications of the actions you take and can save you unnecessary headaches and trauma.

3. Decide What is Most Important to You

It is valuable to decide early on what is the most important thing for you. Sometimes people go and look for a job and they take a job with a lower annual salary and say yeah but the benefits are amazing. They took a job for less money because the benefits were more important to them, right? It is important to understand when separating what is the most important factor or factor(s) to you. In some cases, custody of minor children may be absolutely the most important thing. In other cases, finances may be the most important aspect of your situation. You may have a business that you want to protect. In some cases, it is your home, and staying in your home is the most important thing. Regardless of what your issue or issues are it is very important to identify them right away because they are going to frame the rest of the discussion. Most often separation and divorces are negotiations and you need to know what are the big-ticket items for you.

4. Make a Plan

I had a client ask me recently if she took action to plan for her separation was that wrong? Short answer… NO. People do this every day, I just told you above to meet with a lawyer! You should plan for any major action in your life. When I go to purchase a new automobile, I look at my finances, I make plans and think about affording the car payment. You should of course take action prior to separating, prior to having a conversation with your spouse, he or she is likely planning, or they sure will start.

One of the most important things, I like to advise all my clients to do is to protect their credit and assets prior to making a decision about separation. You should definitely freeze your credit for example (I can provide a link to how to do that). Other things include opening personal bank accounts, limited access to funds in joint bank accounts, closing credit accounts and card, taking credit accounts off joint bank accounts. There are many other things you can do to prepare for a separation, and when you meet with an attorney they can go over many things you should and should not do.

5. Talk to Your Spouse

When you are ready to make a decision you should sit down and have an honest conversation with your spouse. Divorce can be a very ugly process and it helps to try and start things off and fairly and with as little contention as possible. Often this doesn’t work, and in some cases, this is just not possible, however in cases where it is sometimes starting out with an honest conversation can be helpful. In cases where it isn’t possible, taking steps to protect yourself is a must. If you are concerned for your safety please discuss this with your attorney so that they can obtain the legal protections you need for yourself and your family.

Like any major life decision proper planning and sound decision making can make all the difference. If we can assist you with this process please feel free to contact our office.