Navigating Divorce in North Carolina: What to Do Once You've Made the Decision

What to Do Once You’ve Made the Decision

When contemplating divorce, the decision rarely happens suddenly but rather happens over time. And, for most people, it is one of the most challenging decisions they will ever make. But once you’ve made this decision, then what?

With a new perspective, people often realize that the house they built together is no longer a home. And when things are no longer “normal” it is normal for millions of questions to run through your mind. “What should I do first? Where will I live? What am I entitled to? How will I afford it?” are all questions my clients often find themselves asking in the wake of deciding to divorce.

Divorce can be a challenging step to take in life, but not one you have to take alone. Consider these pointers to protect yourself and your interests as you step forward into your new normal.


Take an inventory of all of your finances from both separate and joint accounts. Create a summary of all bank accounts, financial accounts, and retirement accounts. To gauge the status of your financial portfolio, this information is essential. It’s fine if you don’t have immediate access or don’t know this information, an experienced family law attorney can work with you to explain the different methods used to retrieve this information if needed.

Real and Personal Property

Take an inventory of all the personal property you both own and specify if the property was acquired before or after your marriage date. This is important to determine what property is marital and what property is separate. If there are special family heirlooms, personal collections, or gifts that have special meaning to you, take steps to protect these items.

Regarding real property, try to get copies of all of your real property information, such as closing documents, appraisals, major repair work and remodels, refinance documents, tax documents, and beyond. Again, if you do not have immediate access, or any access to this information, don’t panic. Your attorney may be able to help you piece together as much of the information and documentation as possible.

Retirement / Investments / Stocks

Retirement and investments can be overwhelming and confusing to navigate. How much do either you or your spouse have? Is it vested? What are the penalties for early withdrawal? What if I vested in my pension before we were married? These questions are valid concerns, so don’t feel uncomfortable discussing them with your attorney. Try to obtain as much information on these investments as possible, which will help your attorney swiftly navigate through your financial portfolio.

It is important to remember, your attorney is not a financial advisor. Your attorney, as your legal advisor, is there to inform you about what you are and are not entitled to in terms of equitable distribution and divorce. It is still up to you to decide how to manage your share of the marital interests once your case is complete, though your attorney likely has a list of resources they can provide you with to steer you in the right direction.


Keep an accounting of all debt, both separate and marital. This likely includes credit cards, loans, taxes owed, medical bills, etc. Most often, if these debts were acquired during the marriage, they will be considered marital debts, which you will both be equally responsible for paying. But just like everything else in law, the devil is in the details and each case is different. In situations like these, it’s crucial to work with an experienced family law attorney who can assist in determining the debt’s nature and purpose to minimize your financial responsibility if needed.

So now what?

The first thing you should do is take a deep breath. Attorneys understand you are taking a gigantic step that will change your life path and, as legal professionals, we treat that with utmost importance. Although separation and divorce can be incredibly emotional, scary, and taxing, it is also something you have thought long and hard about and decided was the best step for you, your well-being, and the well-being of your family.

When preparing for your new normal, it’s crucial to find an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the challenging journey. So, if you’re still holding that breath, I told you to take – exhale. Write down as many of the questions flying through your head as possible and then find the attorney who is right for you and book a consultation. Now that you’ve decided to divorce, arming yourself with as much accurate legal information as possible is important. Today is the first day of the rest of your life – hold your head high as you take the next step towards your new normal.

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