Your Post-Divorce To Do List– Posted by Miriam R. Gordon
The judge has signed your final decree of dissolution and you are now officially divorced. You probably feel a sense of relief, along with a slew of other emotions, and you are ready to start the next chapter of your life. Before you put your divorce behind you, there are few things you should do after your final divorce pleadings are entered:
- Review all of the final pleadings with your attorney. While you reviewed the final documents prior to signing them, you should check these once again to make sure you implement each provision of your final documents. For example, what financial obligations do you have? How will you handle your taxes? Do you need to ensure your ex-spouse has removed you from the home mortgage? If you have remaining questions, ask your attorney!
- Close joint accounts or remove your spouse from the account. If you were awarded a joint financial account in the dissolution, contact the financial institution to remove your ex-spouse from the account. Make sure to do this for all bank accounts and credit cards. It is important to confirm you are no longer liable for any credit cards your ex-spouse was awarded as part of the dissolution and that your ex no longer has access to credit cards you were awarded. You may also wish to request a copy of your credit report to uncover any accounts that are open and active under your name if this was not done during the dissolution process.
- Change your name. If you requested a name change in your Decree of Dissolution, make sure you notify the necessary agencies or entities of your name change. This may include the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, Passport Office, IRS, Voter Registration, and your financial/banking institutions.
- Change your beneficiary designations. Check all insurance policies, including life and disability insurance, all retirement accounts (IRA, 401(k), etc.), and bank/investment accounts for the designated beneficiary. Take all necessary steps to change the beneficiary. However, be mindful of any specific provisions in your final pleadings that may require you to maintain your ex-spouse or children as a beneficiary, such as your life insurance policy.
- Change your passwords. Did you and your ex-spouse use any common passwords or does your ex know the passwords for any of your online accounts, including social media? Make sure to change all passwords on your email, social media and online accounts.
- Check your health insurance. If your spouse was providing your health insurance, you will no longer be covered post-dissolution. Make sure you know when your coverage ends and be sure to sign up for a new policy to prevent a gap in coverage. If you are not employed or are unable to get insurance through your employer, research the Washington Health Exchange at www.wahbexchange.org.
- Finalize any property transfers. Were you awarded the house in the divorce? Make sure all quitclaim deeds and any other required real estate documents are signed and recorded to exchange title of real property. Be sure to execute all paperwork needed to transfer title for any automobiles awarded to you or your spouse in the dissolution. While not as common, do you need to transfer any burial plots purchased during the marriage? Follow the terms of your Decree of Dissolution and make sure all personal property is transferred to the proper owner.
- Re-finance mortgages. If you were awarded real property or any significant assets or liabilities in the dissolution, make sure that you take the necessary steps to remove your ex-spouse from any obligations associated with those assets and liabilities if required by your Decree of Dissolution. If you are not the spouse responsible for the obligation, follow up with your ex to ensure the obligation is re-financed and your name is removed from the obligation if specified in the Decree of Dissolution. You do not want to run into this issue down the road when you try to qualify for a mortgage or other loan.
- Taxes. Make sure you know how you are filing your taxes for the current year, and the following years, and what deductions, exemptions or dependencies you can claim. Are you claiming exemptions for your children? If you paid the mortgage of the family home for a portion of the previous year, is one party claiming all of the mortgage payments? Discuss this with your attorney if you are uncertain.
- Finalize split of the retirement accounts. Did you and your ex-spouse divide a retirement account? If so, make sure you follow the necessary process for division, possibly including the need for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to provide your or your spouse’s financial institution with instructions on how to transfer the retirement fund.
- Meet with a financial advisor. Your income and lifestyle is likely to change after your divorce. It is prudent to meet with a financial advisor to establish a budget, discuss your investments, run new tax projections, and/or ensure that you are adequately preparing for retirement.
- Create a tracking system. Will you and your ex-spouse be allocating expenses for the children such as childcare, extra-curricular and/or educational expenses? Make sure you understand if you have to first agree to the expenses and then create a system to track the expenses and reimbursements. Be sure to save all receipts or proofs of payment as you may need them in the event of a future dispute regarding an expense.
- Update your estate documents. If you haven’t already done so, after your dissolution decree is entered, make sure you change or update your will or estate planning documents. If you have not previously prepared a will, it’s a good time to do so. Our estate planning attorneys at Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson are happy to can assist you with your estate plan.
- Keep all documents in a safe place. Keep a copy of all of your original dissolution papers together with your important documents in a safe and secure place such as a safe deposit box. Make sure you have copies of the final entered pleadings accessible for future reference.
While it may seem like a lot to do after you have completed your divorce, taking the above steps will protecting you financially. Please feel free to contact Miriam Gordon or any of the other family law attorneys at Lasher, Holzapfel, Sperry, & Ebberson if you have any questions.