Pre-Planning Before Separation

planning ahead of a separation

While most people focus on the emotional impact of divorce, it is often the financial impact of a divorce that causes long-term damage and pain. The separation attorneys of Charles Ullman & Associates work to protect our clients’ financial interests as well as to meet their emotional needs as they end their marriage.

When possible, we will work with our client to develop a separation agreement that ensures an equitable division of assets and debts for both sides. Regardless of whether such a collaborative divorce will be possible for you, there are steps to take to protect yourself as soon as you recognize that divorce is likely. By planning ahead for separation, you can put yourself in a better position.

First, you need to speak to a divorce attorney and most likely should engage their services. If a divorce is probable, your spouse will obtain legal representation. If you don’t have a lawyer, you will put yourself at a disadvantage. In Raleigh, you can contact Charles Ullman & Associates online or at (919) 336-0136 and schedule an initial consultation with a compassionate divorce attorney. We’ll explain all phases of a divorce, including how to plan for separation, asset division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. We serve clients across Wake County.

Determine What Separation Will Mean Financially

When a couple divorces in North Carolina, the law requires an equitable division of marital assets. Whether by court order or in a separation agreement, your homes, cars, money, retirement accounts, insurance, personal property, and debts accumulated during the marriage will be divided between you.

Even with a more or less even split of marital assets plus allowances for support, needs, and earning ability, for most people, divorce causes a significant change in finances.

To be sure you are treated fairly, your lawyer needs to examine all relevant financial documents. The sooner your lawyer has this information, the better. Before separating, while you have access to all household financial documents including bank statements, income tax returns, brokerage accounts, loan statements, and retirement accounts. You should make copies of all financial documents that identify your assets and debts. Once you move apart, it may be harder to gain access to certain financial documents.

Make lists of joint and separate accounts. Download and print out or make images of online records in case your spouse blocks your access to these accounts. Take photos of personal property. Make copies of tax returns.

Put together a full inventory of:

  • Real estate
  • Motor vehicles
  • Mortgages
  • Credit card balances and other debts
  • Retirement accounts (such as IRAs, 401ks, or similar pre-tax savings plans, and pension plans)
  • Mutual funds and brokerage accounts
  • Notes
  • Personal property of value
  • Any financial documents you’ve signed in the last few years.

If there are assets or debts in your spouse’s name that you cannot access, make a list of them with what you do know about each. If there is a business or professional practice that either of you owns partly or fully, document as best you can what assets it has and what it is worth.

Only marital property must be divided. Anything either of you had before you were married or that you earned or received on your own while married should not be considered marital property. Tell your lawyer about non-marital assets and/or any potential disagreement over the status of assets.

Put together a budget of your monthly income (independent of your spouse) and what it costs for you to get through a month of bills. If you expect to have custody of children, include their costs. Spell out everything.

With this information, your separation lawyer can get a picture of how your money, property, and debt will be divided and potentially whether you will need to seek spousal or child support. At this point, you may also want to speak with a financial advisor about reallocating investments or distributions from accounts.

Your lawyer and/or financial advisor will tell you, but keep in mind that how you split assets – for example, one spouse takes the principal residence and the other retains the retirement savings – will result in different tax implications. In some cases, one spouse could lose much of the asset’s value to future taxes. Therefore, be prepared to put emotions aside in some cases in favor of what’s best for you financially.

Protect Your Assets When Planning for Divorce or Separation

Once you have created an inventory of marital assets, protect assets that are yours alone. If you have transferrable accounts for which your spouse is a beneficiary, name a new beneficiary.

Obtain new credit cards in your name only and use them to establish a credit rating of your own. Remove your name, if possible, from any joint credit cards or other accounts you share with your spouse.

If you share a bank account with your spouse, withdraw half of it and establish an account of your own. Be sure you do not withdraw more than half of the account.

If you have substantial assets that are yours alone, there are asset protection vehicles that may be appropriate, such as a trust, an LLC (limited liability corporation, i.e., a sole-proprietor business), or a limited partnership.

Change all of your online passwords – passwords to everything, not just financial accounts. And avoid making any comments on social media about you your divorce and other aspects of your personal life. Anything you say on social media may be used against you.

Request copies of your credit reports and go through them closely. Continuously monitor them to make sure your spouse’s actions don’t adversely affect your future. Anything he or she does while you are still married can hurt your credit standing. You can’t undo it, but you have the right to submit a statement that you are divorcing and that certain acts were beyond your prior knowledge or control.

Set Priorities When Pre-Planning for Separation and Divorce

If you can identify two or three key financial goals while planning for divorce or separation, your lawyer can use them to help focus negotiations toward an equitable separation agreement. Maybe you want the mortgage paid off or for your ex-spouse to handle college tuition for your child when the time comes. Perhaps you need spousal support while you finish a college degree.

When you know what’s financially possible and you come to the table with a clear idea of what you want out of a separation agreement, reasonable requests become more achievable. More importantly, you and your attorney are in a position to stop your spouse from taking advantage of you.

Contact a Raleigh Separation Lawyer Today

Pre-planning can make all the difference when approaching separation and divorce. The divorce attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates can help you protect yourself by getting a clear picture of your and your spouse’s financial capabilities and your specific needs and goals. Work with a North Carolina separation planning attorney who has the experience and resources to sort out a complex financial situation for you. Contact us today to schedule a confidential review of your case.


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.