What to expect: filing for separation in North Carolina?
October 21, 2008 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Here we go again. It looks like we're getting separated. In North Carolina. Short-term marriage, no joint property, no kids.

I've read the submitted AskMe questions, but I'm hoping to get some specific information. Dated for a few years, got married. Both of us have discovered that we have some issues and faults that cannot be resolved through counselling; there are what I consider controlling behaviors from the spouse and what the spouse considers infidelity on my part. This is not ugly, but it's not a happy time, either. We own no joint property, have been married for 6 months, have no kids, and both have careers with decent incomes. We're currently on an apartment lease that ends in January. He is in the process of possibly moving back home across the state. We have a little information, such as having to file for separation first, for a year, and then a no-fault divorce. I have no idea what to expect, as my parents are still together. My spouse is much more volitile regarding this situation than I am; he is vacillating between begging for a chance to change his behavior and claiming that I am a lying cheating dirtbag. This never has been-and especially now-a healthy relationship. I have a very good support network of friends, family, and co-workers. Basically, what am I looking for is: what to do, what might happen, what this might cost, how I broach this subject with family? Thanks. I appreciate it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First thing is to look out for your own safety. You would do well to find somewhere else to stay as soon as you can, and keep looking over your shoulder all the time. Do not be alone with your spouse, if you can help it. You say it's an unhealthy relationship - it may well get a lot worse suddenly. Controlling can escalate into scary stuff.
posted by fish tick at 6:55 PM on October 21, 2008

I'm sorry.

When I got divorced (after being married less than a year, I sympathize), I moved out, called my family and said "Hey hows it going, I think I'm getting divorced" and eventually hired a lawyer to navigate the paperwork.

The most important thing is to take care of yourself, and remember this too shall pass.
posted by Ponderance at 7:06 PM on October 21, 2008

I wholeheartedly agree with Fish Tick.
posted by Ponderance at 7:06 PM on October 21, 2008

chances are this won't be a surprise to your network. i had a friend just recently announce the dissolution of a 7 year relationship via email, and that worked well for her because she was able to tell the story once, and then deal with individual questions one on one. but, again, if it's a good network, "hey, [husband] and i are getting divorced' will probably be met with 'um-hmmm' and hopefully 'what do you need help with?'

The vacillation of your spouse is a potent complication. If it was just the two of you, it might be okay, but once his version of the story gets to friends and family - especially if he is going back to live with them - what should, on paper, be a very simple, cordial, dissolution of a fledgling household could VERY easily escalate into "you shouldn't let her get a thing! yes, you must FIGHT over that ugly coffee table that you didn't really care about but you know she does! yes, you SHOULD engage a lawyer because she got more of the 25 cent plates from ikea than you did!"

get out as soon as you can. take anything you care about with you. realize in the end *it's just stuff* and it's replaceable - but make sure you have your grandma's comforter with YOU and not left behind.

make sure you are safe, first. if you can have someone in the room with you or around all the time it will be good. just in case.
posted by micawber at 7:18 PM on October 21, 2008

First of all, if you can, please sit down with a marriage counselor or at least a lawyer and while things are borderline amicable (before ANYTHING else happens) and try to get down, in writing, who gets what. This may be of some help to you.

You need an impartial witness to make sure that 1. you both have said your peace, walked away from the marriage knowing you did everything you could not to enrage or embitter each other, and 2. you both agree, again, with an impartial mediator, who gets what and how. For example: You need to make an itemized list of every credit card, bank account, etc. and state who is responsible for what. This includes everything from your car to your bank account to your 401k and you need the approximate amount that will be on those debts/assets at the time you file.

I filed my divorce myself in Texas for $215. Because I was willing to pay for marriage counseling and hammer out the details with my ex over the course of a few months I believe I ended up with a better deal than if I'd paid a lawyer to do all the work for me, go to court, etc.

You have no children. This is good. You don't own property, again, this is good. But be sure to read up the laws in your state; if it is a community property state, then realize that anything HE does during the separation and up until the legal date the divorce is final, you will be seen in the eyes of the law as essentially the same person in regards to debts, assets, tax burdens, anything financial at all.

What does that mean? Well, if he gets into a wreck and the person he hits sues him, you may be jointly liable for the lawsuit amount... that sort of thing. I'm stating this from my own experience; not sure about North Carolina laws, but after a cursory glance, it looks about the same, except we don't have a separation requirement. My ex had warrants. For a year, I got pulled over every time a man was in the car with me. I'm giving you worst-case scenarios here not to scare you but to prepare you to arm yourself well before you get started. This works both ways; what I mean by that is, if he inherits property or whatever before the divorce is final, you're entitled to a piece of that, too. It's very important that you go over EVERYTHING related to finance, credit, debt, and anything considered an asset that you want to keep or he does.

Also, if you don't explicitly state what belongs to whom, then for years after the divorce you may have credit problems, be getting his mail, all that stuff. It's best to work out the details before the bitterness of a long separation sets in. File taxes separate but married next year (again, agree to that in writing!) and try to communicate as little as possible once you have worked out the details.

If you can agree to do this together, without a lawyer or a counselor, all you need to do is type up everything, put all the notarization stuff on the bottom, and go have it notarized at a MailBoxes Etc. or someplace and sign it jointly and pay a small fee. I urge you to do this before he moves away; it's a lot harder to get this information over the phone or via email and he might try to deceive you.

You also need to state in the filing whether you want to return to your maiden name, if you took his, should you so desire. If you don't, it will cost you money after the fact to return to your original name and you will have to get all your IDs (license, passport, Social Security Card) reissued AGAIN. If you state your preferred name in the divorce papers, all that stuff is dealt with already and all you have to do is send in copies of the divorce decree to get your stuff updated.

Make sure that you have your own renter's insurance, car insurance, health, dental, everything in your name alone and vice versa. Divorce itself is not that difficult; it's agreeing on the details that is, relatively speaking.

Lawyers are incredibly expensive. If you two can agree and do a no-fault divorce, I would urge you to do the paperwork yourself. You will spend maybe a few hundred total in counseling, notarization, filing fees, that sort of thing... if you fight it out with a lawyer, or things get ugly, it will cost you thousands.

In the unlikely event that you separate and work out your issues, you can always reconcile after the separation period or during. You simply lose the amount you spent on counseling, notarizing things, etc. If you file the divorce papers, and then reconcile, you'll lose the fee you paid, I believe, and that's it.

Lawyers = $$$$$$$$$. Hopefully he doesn't have one in his family willing to do it all for free. I'm very sorry for your loss, because it is a loss, and having gone through a divorce I can tell you that it's better to get out sooner vs. later. My dad once said the longest period of time that ever existed is the time between the day you decide to divorce and the day the divorce is final. He's pretty dead on, but once it's over, I hope that you can find some peace.

Good luck. Looks like this article will help you understand property division. If you have any friends or relatives at all who have divorced, they will be your best resources.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:44 PM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

get out as soon as you can
This cannot be emphasised enough! Please leave, even if you think there is no chance in the world that anything bad could happen. Give him a contact number for messages, let your family know where you are. They will be okay with it. He will be okay with it too, probably, but it may take years. For now, there is no predicting things. Get away. CHANGE THE LOCKS IF YOU KEEP THE APARTMENT.
posted by fish tick at 7:47 PM on October 21, 2008

I'm in a different state, and my relationship was long with kids, but I'm also going through this process, and I very much recognize the description of your spouse in my now-ex.

Definitely do get every agreement made in writing. If you make a verbal agreement and he later claims he didn't say anything like that, there's not much you can do about it.

Also, do watch out for his behavior escalating - after we separated, mine went completely off the rails, and his previously controlling and scary behavior became much worse after he had no reason to balance it with apologies and charm to keep me around anymore.

Good luck.
posted by streetdreams at 10:44 AM on October 22, 2008

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