Separation and divorce are emotionally and financially challenging life changes. In North Carolina, you cannot get divorced until you have lived separately in different residences for at least one full year. Thus, when you want to end your marriage, you first have to separate your households. For many people, simply separating in this way is a goal that is too financially challenging in order to be easily accomplished. It is expensive to set up a new household, and not everyone is able to do so when they come to the decision that this is the best route forward. Fortunately, even if you can’t separate right away, there are many ways to begin preparing for this eventuality.
Taking Steps to Prepare for Your Future Separation
Even if you cannot afford to separate when you want to, you can start preparing for a future date when you will be able to do so. You can begin by separating your finances. Close joint accounts, and set up new accounts under your own name. This could include your checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit card accounts. You can also focus on paying off shared credit card debts, so that it will be easier when the time comes to separate and you won’t have these shared expenses.
You should also separate your cell phone accounts and various bills, if possible. Having your own cell phone account will give you some privacy and independence from your spouse. Changing the various household bills to be in just one person’s name is also a step towards independence. As you plan who is going to stay in the home and who intends to leave, this can help you to decide whose name different accounts should be in. However, it is important to remember that your utility bills, cable bills, and other accounts may be transferred from one address to another, so these decisions do not all have to be based on who will remain in the house when the separation occurs. In fact, it is costly to open all new accounts; and it may be financially easier on you to put accounts in your name, and then transfer them when you move.
Another step to take is to change your mailing address. You can do this before you move to a new address by setting up a P.O. Box with your local post office. This will go a long way towards developing privacy and independence from your spouse.
One major thing to think about is establishing your support system through the difficult process of separation. This involves telling friends and family about the situation, letting them know about your plans, and knowing who you can turn to when struggling with the emotional and financial challenges ahead of you.
You can also begin to live a separate life from the spouse you wish to separate from by sleeping in separate bedrooms, eating separately, and establishing a new way of interacting with each other based on how you expect and want things to be when you do separate.
Requirements for Getting Divorced in North Carolina
North Carolina allows for a no-fault divorce if you have been physically separated for at least one year and if at least one of you is a resident of NC for at least six months. You are not considered to be separated if you still live in the same house, so you need to plan ahead and prepare to separate as quickly as you can if you wish to eventually file for divorce.
What if Domestic Violence is an Issue in Your Home?
One of the most challenging aspects of separation and divorce in North Carolina are often found in those cases that involve domestic violence. When someone is being abused – physically, emotionally, or mentally – and that person cannot afford to move out on their own or is afraid to do so, then this can make the challenges of separation and divorce much worse for the victim. When children are involved in such relationships, it is an even more complex dynamic.
It is easier said than done to report the abuse and put a stop to it. If it were that simple, then domestic violence would not be the problem that we all know it to be. In some cases, the victim will wish to protect their partner from criminal charges or protect themselves and their children from further abuse in retaliation for reporting it.
In some cases, you may be able to prepare for separation using the above tips in a way that is gradual and subtle. You might start quietly saving money to get yourself out of the situation. However, if you or your children are in immediate danger, have sustained physical injuries, or have had your life or your children’s lives threatened, then you need to seek help. Contacting 911 might be a frightening solution, but it may also be the one that saves your life.
Other options include turning to family members for help and safety, leaving the home when the abuser is not present, and/or using the various available resources for domestic violence victims in North Carolina. There are domestic violence shelters and hotlines that can help.
Resources Are Available to Help Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse
For many victims of domestic violence and abuse in North Carolina, their family and friends will be their best resource for getting the support and help that they need to leave an abusive relationship. However, if this is not an option for you, or if you are not able to find a safe place to go, you can turn to various other available resources. You can call the National Domestic Violence hotline at (800)799-7233, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800)656-4673, or the North Carolina Domestic Violence Hotline at (888)997-9124.
While many victims of domestic violence face the same – or even greater – financial obstacles, it is frequently a matter of safety, and even life or death, to get out of the situation without delay. Many people end up leaving everything behind and facing significant financial and emotional struggles in the process, but they become safer and stronger in the process.
Remington & Dixon PLLC Family Law Attorneys Can Help
When you are preparing to separate and ultimately divorce, you’ll want to know your options and how to minimize the challenges associated with your circumstances. Contact Remington & Dixon PLLC to speak with one of our North Carolina family law attorneys and learn more.