The divorce is done and you have breathed a sigh of relief, ready to put it all behind you and move forward. But wait! Not yet! You aren’t really finished until you take the necessary steps to complete the ending of the marriage.
Update your Identification.
If you are a woman who has been using her former-husband’s last name, you may have changed your name as part of the divorce. In any case, you may need to change your address on all important documentation and accounts. You may also want to change your contact information and update your passwords.
- Driver’s license, identification cards, passport
- Social Security card
- Voter registration
- Vehicle title and registration
- Insurance policies
- Employer records
- Financial institutions, including creditors and outstanding loans
- Online accounts, including social media and email
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Your divorce decree may include provisions for a QDRO, which requires that a portion of retirement account assets be paid to a former spouse. Make sure this document is drafted and implemented. Double-check with the related investment company (companies), pension plan(s) and 401(k) administrators to ensure that the QDRO is on file, executed and approved.
Update Beneficiaries and ICE and other Healthcare Directives.
- If permitted under your divorce decree, be sure to update the beneficiaries on your retirement and life insurance policies.
- Also make sure your former spouse’s name is removed from any “in case of emergency” healthcare or financial contact information, along with any durable power of attorney for healthcare.
- You may need to look for new medical health insurance. COBRA could be a temporary option. Another more permanent solution is Marketplace insurance obtained through healthcare.gov.
- Your divorce decree may require you or your former spouse to designate or obtain additional life insurance to cover any potential loss of spousal maintenance or child support income if one of you should die. If allowed, you may also consider buying life insurance on your former spouse yourself to replace any possible loss of income you rely on.
Prepare, execute, and file the required paperwork for transferring property as outlined in your divorce decree.
- If this process is not handled by your attorney, you will need to prepare, execute, and file a deed for any real property transfers between you and your ex-spouse.
- You will also need to prepare, sign and file title transfers for any automobiles or watercraft, if the ownership is changing.
Make it yours
Make sure all of your accounts are in your name only.
- Close bank accounts or remove your former spouse’s name from any joint accounts. Order new checks with your (new) name and new address on them.
- Make sure your name has been removed from any debts or loans that are no longer your responsibility. This is not always possible, so stay on top of your credit rating.
- Close joint credit card accounts. Establish new accounts in your name only.
- Notify your car insurance company of any change in automobile drivers and ownership—and, of course, your new address.
- Obtain a new credit report once all joint accounts have been closed for two or three months.
Contact your Tax Preparer or Accountant
- Update your tax withholdings and/or requirements.
- Update your new filing status, such as Head of Household or Single.
- You may need to contact your employer’s human resources department to do the same.
Set up support payments
- Working with your attorney, establish a direct-deposit or income-withholding method of paying child support through the employer to cover child support or spousal maintenance. Keep a calendar and reliable records of payments made or received, the date they were made and the method of payment.
- If you change jobs, notify your new employer of court-ordered support to continue automatic withholding, if you are required to do so.
Plan your Estate
Schedule an appointment with your financial advisors to strategize your future financial wellbeing. Schedule an appointment with an estate or probate attorney to update your will, trust and powers of attorney. Revoke all previous power-of-attorney privileges granted to your ex-spouse in writing. Thoughtfully consider who should serve as your executor and successor trustees and make those changes.
In addition to keeping careful records of child support payments, if you are co-parenting with a high-conflict former spouse, keep a calendar or journal of scheduled visitation times with the children. Include the dates, times and reasons given for missed, unscheduled, rescheduled or swapped visitation time.
- Carefully review your divorce decree for any additional actions that are required of you or your former spouse. Keep copies of all executed documents or orders on file.
- Keep a certified copy of both your marriage license and your divorce decree in any case, but especially if you were married for more than ten years. Once you are eligible for Social Security, you may have the right to make a claim on your former spouse’s benefits, which may result in a larger benefit for you.
- Not everything mentioned here is relevant to every case. Your family-law attorney or a trusted financial advisor can help you work through the “next steps” after the divorce. Make sure you understand fully what is required of both you and your former spouse.