Tips on Pre-Divorce Planning and Things to Consider

planning ahead of a separation

If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage and divorce your spouse, there are steps you should take to protect yourself financially and emotionally as you begin pre-divorce planning. Separation and divorce are legal procedures, and several concepts specific to North Carolina can make a divorce complicated.

At Charles R. Ullman & Associates in Raleigh, N.C., our attorneys understand the challenges you’ll face preparing for a divorce. Planning is important before you begin the actual divorce process. Our experienced divorce attorneys can help you understand the many factors to be taken into account before moving to end your marriage.

If you have concluded that separation and divorce are what is best for you, schedule a confidential consultation with our Raleigh divorce lawyers about your options. Call us at (919) 829-1006 or fill out our online contact form today.

Understanding Divorce in North Carolina

Because North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, there’s no need to prove marital fault to end your marriage. But you must live separately and apart for at least one year with the intent of permanent separation before you can get a divorce. After a year of separation, you may file for divorce with the court. A judge will have the final say over the terms of your divorce.

The year of separation gives you time to prepare a separation agreement containing the terms of your divorce. This agreement must be approved by the judge and then becomes a binding contract between you and your ex-spouse, which the judge who entered your divorce decree can enforce or modify in cases of violations or as either party’s needs change.

A separation agreement is not required, but without one, a judge determines issues such as property and debt division, child custody, child support, visitation, and spousal support. It is better if a divorcing couple can agree on a separation agreement and present a plan to the judge. We can help you with that and protect your interests.

How to Plan Ahead for A Divorce

Here are some specific steps to take ahead of initiating a divorce.

  • Gather financial documents. Next to the emotional effects, the financial impact of divorce is the most acutely felt, and it is potentially the longest lasting. Make copies of documents such as deeds, insurance policies, bank, and investment account statements, mortgage and loan payment books, tax returns, and pay stubs. Make a list of assets, debts, and monthly expenditures. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure there are no debts you are unaware of. You’ll need to understand your current living expenses so you can accurately project what your expenses will be once you are living in separate households.
  • Separate your accounts. Establish a checking account in your name if you do not already have separate accounts and, if possible, start putting money into it. When you leave, you will need money that is your own to deal with new expenses. Avoid transferring money out of a joint account, but if you make a transfer do not take out more than half of the account balance. Establish at least one major credit card in your name only. Check the beneficiary on transferrable accounts, such as insurance, retirement accounts, and pensions, and update the designated beneficiary. Update your will, living will, powers of attorney. If you don’t have a will or end-of-life directives, now is a good time to establish them. Your spouse is first in line to inherit your property or make decisions about your medical care if no one else is designated and the unthinkable happens.
  • Go single digitally. If you and your spouse have shared email accounts, create a personal email account. If you already have separate email, social media, and other online accounts, change your passwords, especially if your spouse knows what they are or can easily figure them out. Do not change your marital status on Facebook or other social media, and do not start new, separate social media accounts. Your spouse will see or hear about them, even if you attempt to keep them private. Do not delete existing accounts. This is considered spoliation of potential evidence and could be held against you.
  • Behave well. Anything you do or post online can be held against you later, even if it’s portrayed out of the context. Never discuss divorce online until it is fully settled. You should handle your divorce in a business-like manner and treat everyone involved with a civil attitude, including your spouse, no matter how he or she treats you. This also goes for how you act in front of your children.
  • Speak to an attorney. You will need an attorney if you move forward with separation and divorce. All consultations with a divorce attorney are absolutely confidential. While you and your spouse can divorce without legal assistance, an attorney can keep you from making costly mistakes that may have repercussions for years beyond your final divorce settlement. An experienced divorce attorney can:
    • Help you understand what is normal and fair in a North Carolina divorce
    • Ensure the process moves along as quickly and painlessly as possible
    • Look out for your best interests, including ensuring an equitable distribution of assets and protecting your financial interests
    • Assert your rights to alimony, child custody, and child visitation as appropriate and according to your desires
    • Stand by you and address all of your questions and concerns as you go through the divorce process.

Contact an Experienced Raleigh, NC, Divorce Lawyer

Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you navigate the weeks and months ahead if you believe your marriage needs to be ended with a divorce. We can make sure you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your future. We will protect your rights if your spouse seeks to impose upon your future.

Divorce is a challenging time, but you can depend on our experience to get you through it. Our firm has proudly served Raleigh and the surrounding Wake County communities for more than a decade. Our founding attorney, Charles R. Ullman, is a North Carolina State Bar-certified Family Law Specialist, an accomplished mediator, and a veteran trial attorney.

Contact us for an initial consultation. Let us explain how we can guide you through the financial and legal process of divorce so that you are well-positioned to move forward with your new life. Phone (919) 829-1006 or contact us online today.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.