Preparing to Leave a Marriage in SC

What should one do to prepare to leave a marriage?

By M. J. Goodwin

 

I think that perhaps the hardest part of any divorce proceeding is the decision to end the marriage and the actual moving out of the marital home by one spouse. Many times, clients come to me before they have left the home. These potential litigants want to know what they should do to protect themselves and their legal rights. The answers to their questions vary greatly, depending on their circumstances, but a few areas of preparation remain fairly constant.

I suggest that everyone have a self-support reserve. This is money that one can access without the other spouse being able to stop them. This can be achieved by saving some cash or by opening a separate bank account. The amount of money one deposits into this account should be enough to cover a month of expenses, if possible. If such an account is not possible, access to a credit card with sufficient credit to cover the monthly expenses is a good secondary choice.  This should not be a joint account.   Remember that ALL assets are marital assets. I do not advocate any client taking more than half of the money from a joint account. And I do not advocate leaving one’s spouse “high and dry” with no way to pay bills. A careful balance must be stuck between being able to provide for one’s self and fulfilling one’s marital responsibilities. Never do anything to a spouse that puts you in a bad light, such as cutting off the power with no warning.

Opening a PO Box and changing important mailings to that address prior to leaving is another consideration. The bank and credit card statements for the new accounts should go to this address.

Make copies of important documents, such as the last 5 years of tax returns, bank statements, retirement account statements, real estate information and any other potentially relevant information. If you have your spouses’ identifying information such as Social Security number and Driver’s License number, write them in a safe place.

Preserve evidence. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, have any visible injuries photographed. If you have found incriminating emails or Facebook posts from a cheating spouse, print them to hard copies. Then it doesn’t matter if they are later deleted. If your spouse is abusing alcohol, consider photographing the trash can full of bottles. Have a friend come and see how many bottles are in the trash. The possibilities of how to preserve evidence are more numerous in the age of cell phones with cameras. Print the pictures so that you have hard copies of everything.

If there are items of sentimental value that you legitimately fear may be destroyed by your unhappy spouse, remove those items from the marital residence to a safe place.  Do not dispose of any items, as there can be negative consequences associated with doing so.

The most important thing you can do to prepare for separation is to retain a lawyer. Competent legal counsel will walk you through what you need to do in your specific circumstance, to preserve your rights and get the best possible result in Court. You can contact me by email at: mj@mjgoodwin.com or by phone at 864-375-0909.

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