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January is a Busy Time for Divorce Attorneys

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RALEIGH — January is a time of the year when people make new resolutions and sever old ties.

Lawyers say January is a record month for people seeking divorces. It's a new year, and people are looking for a new beginning.

But what you do not know about divorce could hurt your bank account. Like with any other major decision in life, lawyers say it's important to plan ahead.

After 22 years of marriage, Debbie Geer and her husband decided to part ways. Even though the split is amicable, the process is a lot more complicated than she had thought it would be.

"I thought it was going to be easy. Go down to the courthouse, here's my money, give me my papers, I'm gone. It wasn't like that at all," said Geer.

Geer is not alone. In 1997, there were 36,854 divorces in North Carolina. That's an average of about 101 divorces per day.

Many of those divorce proceedings begin in January, a trend Geer understands.

"Maybe that spark is there, or maybe it's not, and you try that last-ditch effort. You think New Year's Eve. Either I'm going to try again or go on with my life," said Geer.

"Nobody wants to be alone for the holidays, so they all hang on for that last couple of weeks. By Jan. 1, they are ready to go," said attorney Lee Rosen.

Rosen says January is his busiest month for clients seeking divorces.

"Just today I've got appointments every hour, all day long with new people trying to figure out how to get out of the relationship," said Rosen.

Rosen says the first issue couples need to deal with is the children.

Then, both parties need to understand what assets they have and what debts they are responsible for.

"We see a lot of people who have no idea what their family financial situation is, so they've got to spend some time going through that file cabinet in the corner of the house and figure out what their financial situation really is all about," said Rosen.

Remember, it's not just assets which are divided equally, but debt. So you could walk away from a marriage owing a lot of money.

North Carolina requires a one year period of separation before a divorce becomes legal.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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