Whether you are anticipating a possible equitable distribution, post-separation support, or alimony action once your separation has commenced, you will need to make sure you have your financial information readily available. Reason being is that this information is going to be required to be produced by a North Carolina court. Even if you intend to resolve all issues through a separation agreement, any competent attorney that is representing you and/or your spouse is going to require that both parties exchange financial information.
HOW DOES THIS HELP ME PREPARE FOR A SEPARATION?
The purpose of gathering financial information is to figure out if you or your spouse is going to have a financial obligation to the other party (if you are in line to have a financial obligation to your spouse you want to be able to budget for it). The financial information is going to be exchanged between the parties anyways, so you mind as well gather the information when you know you will have access to it.
WHAT IF WE HAVE JOINT ACCESS TO A LOT, IF NOT ALL, OF THE SAME INFORMATION?
Even more reason to go ahead and get all the information just in case your spouse decides to change your online joint bank account or credit card account passwords, for example. You want proof of what was in the bank account or owed on the credit card on the date of separation. Sure, you'll eventually get the information down the road, but having it ahead of time will save you time, money, and stress while keeping you on a level playing field.
WHAT INFORMATION DO I NEED TO HAVE?
Print or digitally download any and all credit card statements, bank statements, mortgage statements, loan statements, etc. going back as far as the date of marriage, if possible. If you have a vehicle, for example, that was purchased prior to the marriage, and is therefore separate property, then you should make sure you have the title to it (assuming it's titled in your name) to show that it's your separate property.
ISN'T MY SPOUSE GOING TO BE AT AN ADVANTAGE IF SHE HAS MY INFORMATION?
For starters, I said gather the financial information, not produce it right away. Sure, you'll eventually need to give your financial information to your spouse, but you don't want to put yourself at a disadvantage by producing your information too quickly. You don't want to have to hound your spouse for his/her information while he/she becomes familiar with yours.
Also, if the information is jointly held and you gather it first, you're able to get an initial idea as to which spouse is going to be owing the other and if debt is going to be marital or separate. This will help you budget your money going forward.
Our fifth and final blog post in this series will be covering gathering evidence.
*Nothing in this blog post is to be taken as establishing an attorney-client relationship. This blog post is not to be construed as providing legal advice.