Q: State: NC What are my rights as husband if I move out of our residence prior to reaching divorce agreement?
Married 22 years, two children ages 18 and 21. Youngest child currently living at home while enrolled in college taking online classes during COVID. Wife has been stay at home mom entire marriage. We have reached an impasse on our relationship. I need to move out to avoid further arguing and conflict. I am NOT abandoning the home or family. What are my rights to protect my interest in marital property?
A: There is no such cause of action as 'abandonment' in North Carolina so you don't have to worry about that. However, if you are interested in protecting your interest in marital property, you likely should not leave until you have a formal written separation agreement in place. Basically, you and your spouse can do things two ways: 1) the smart affordable way, where you are fair with each other or 2) the dumb expensive way where you pay strangers a crap ton of money to decide things for you that you and your spouse could have decided yourselves for free or at low cost and likely ending up with the same outcome as you would if you'd just been fair with each other in the first place. Your best bet is to consult with a local family law attorney who can review your specific situation and lay out your options. This does not have to be expensive. Our firm charges a flat rate fee of $250 for a fully comprehensive separation agreement for most average couples but you will find firms that charge $2500 or more. Sometimes spending more means a better product or service but more often than not, when it comes to legal services for routine things like separation and divorce for average couples - spending more is just spending more. So shop around and best of luck.
A: This question can only be fully answered through a consultation with a family law attorney. That said, you've got to consider (1) how to equitably divide your marital property, and you've got to consider (2) whether any spousal support should be paid.
The property that needs to be divided includes real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, personal property, vehicles, and debts. Both parties need to agree on how to divide this property, and while a 50/50 division may sound right, it is not appropriate for all parties and an unequal division in someone's favor may make more sense.
While it may be time for mom to find employment of some time, you could easily end up owing her spousal support. This is going to depend on a bunch of factors, the most relevant being your current income.
I've generally found that these issues should be discussed before moving out, with the hopes of reaching a partial agreement on at least some of the issues. You can discuss with your wife how to financially support her after moving out so as not to financially abandon her. Cutting her off completely would not be something I would encourage you to do.
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