Divorce Checklist – What To Do To Prepare for Your Divorce
Divorce is a confusing and complicated process that can last longer than expected at times. While the only requirement for filing for divorce is simply to be separated for one year from your spouse, there are numerous other things you will need to do in order to prepare for divorce and make sure you are protected. You will have to make difficult decisions in a short span of time. As such, here are some things you need to know or do to make this process easier and a lot less stressful.
Before the Divorce
Consider talking to a marriage counselor. Marriage counselors can help you to cope, and provide tips and strategies on how to deal with the emotions you are feeling.
Contact an attorney
In North Carolina, the separation and divorce process can be complicated. Because of this, it is important to speak to an attorney before you make any decisions, as even the simplest things can make a huge difference in the process. The best way to know your rights under North Carolina law is to contact an attorney who can guide you through this process.
P.O. Box to receive any personal mail
If your spouse is not aware that you are considering a divorce, you should consider opening a P.O. Box to receive mail and correspondence from attorneys and other professionals.
The following legal documents will assist you immensely as you prepare for divorce.
- Obtain a copy of your marriage certificate
- Make a copy of any prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements
- Make a copy of licenses
- Make copies of trust documents
- Make copies of any wills executed during marriage
- Make copies of any other documents that you feel could be important to the process
- Update your will. While you cannot disinherit a spouse in North Carolina, you will still want to amend your will before separating in case something were to happen to you.
During the Separation
To best prepare for divorce, it’s important to keep copies of all of the financial details you have built up over your years together, as well as those that belong to you independently. Make a list and gather information of all financial accounts, real estate property, assets, legal, and tax information.
Banks and Credit Cards
Make a list of all of the bank accounts that you and your spouse have. Gather information such as:
- Make a list of all bank accounts
- Make a list of all credit cards
- Confirm current balance
- Obtain copies of statements for the past year
- Confirm login information for joint accounts
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name
- Put money in your new account to pay living expenses and any emergencies for a few months
- Apply for a credit card in your own name if you do not already have one
Bills and Finances
- Make a list of all monthly bills that are paid by you and your spouse.
- Obtain statements for the past year
- Confirm the current balance
- Confirm account numbers
- Confirm access information
There are several important things to keep in mind when making decisions about the marital home. It is very important that you do not move out of the marital home before you speak to an attorney. Leaving the home before separating from a spouse or during the process has consequences, which are often unknown to people. For example, it can affect alimony and sometimes it can prohibit you from returning to the home until after the divorce is complete.
- Make copies of mortgage statements for the past 6 months
- Confirm account number
- Obtain bank loan and mortgage information
- Take pictures of each room and its contents in the home
- Make copies of payment statements
- Make a list of the assets
- Obtain an appraisal
- Obtain a copy of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy
- Make a copy of leasing agreements
- Make a copy of real estate tax bill
- Make a list of monthly expenses
It is very important when you prepare for divorce that before you move out of the marital home, you contact your attorney. Moving out of the marital home comes with consequences. In North Carolina, a spouse is prohibited from returning to the marital home during the divorce process after she/he has moved out.
- Research apartments or homes for rent. If you have children keep in mind school districts.
- Obtain copies of deeds
- Confirm bank loan information
- Take pictures of the property
- Obtain a current market value appraisal for all real estate owned
- Confirm loan information
- Confirm account numbers
- Obtain copy of titles
- Obtain an estimate of the value of your vehicle
- Obtain a copy of the declaration sheet for all auto insurance policies
- Obtain school information
- Update school if address changes
- Make a copy of your child’s class schedule
- Make a list of afterschool activities
- Contact the school if any there are changes to address, or transportation
- Request copies of child care expenses
Remember that you are still responsible for paying your debts while you prepare for divorce. It is important that you and your spouse continue to make payments.
- Make a list of any debts you or your spouse have
- Confirm amount owed
- Confirm account numbers
- Call any “joint” creditors and ask what actions you should take to protect your interests during divorce and to prevent any adverse consequences to your credit report.
- Obtain a copy of your recent credit report
- Gather tax return information for the past 3 years
- Obtain a copy of your W-2s or 1099s for the past 3 years
- Obtain a copy of your spouse’s W-2s or 1099s for the past 3 years, if you have access
- Obtain copies of your paystubs for the previous 6 months
- Make a list of employer-provided benefits
- Obtain copy of disability insurance policy
- Obtain copy of life insurance
- Request a copy of your credit report. This will show all debts and accounts
- Obtain current balance for any 401K accounts or retirement accounts
- Obtain current balance statements for all stock, bond, and investment accounts.
- Change your passwords to all of your social media, e-mail, and online accounts.
New E-mail Account
One of the most forgotten methods to prepare for divorce is to change your email address. If you and your spouse shared an e-mail account, create a new e-mail account to link to your online accounts and to communicate with your attorney. Remember you cannot “hack” into your spouse’s email account. The appropriate legal channels must be followed to access your spouse’ email.
Research and explore your health insurance options before the divorce process is complete.
- Obtain copy of health insurance policy
- Obtain copy of health savings account
- Make a copy of health insurance documents
- Make a list of all assets such as furniture, art, and jewelry.
- Calculate the approximate value of each item
- Make a list of items that are important to you and would like to keep
Power of Attorney
- Determine whether you need to revoke any power of attorney documents that name your spouse as your agent.
If you own a business, contact an attorney. Your attorney will guide you through the process and tell you what documents and information you will need to obtain
After the Divorce
If you’ve done everything right to prepare for divorce, there should be very little work you need to do once your divorce is finalized. However, you will still want to do the following:
- Amend your will after waiving your ex-spouse’s rights to inheritance in a Separation Agreement.
- Change beneficiaries to any retirement and investment accounts as soon as you separate if possible, then you can change the beneficiaries again as needed after the divorce is finalized.