Once the gavel has fallen and the Final Decree of Divorce is signed, many people feel a plethora of emotions: relief, sadness – even elation. But life after divorce can be fraught with complications, even long after the court case is finished. Take a look at some of these tips and things to do to ensure your life is disrupted as little as possible as you start a new chapter.
Make sure all your property is actually divided. The decree only tells you what to divide – it does not do any division for you. Make sure you (or your attorney) have completed all of the closing documents to ensure the property has been transferred. For example, if real property changed hands, usually there must be a new deed, and the deed should be recorded in the land records. If your name was on a vehicle that is now being awarded to your spouse, make sure you have executed the title. If you are dividing up retirement, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order might be necessary. You do not want to be stuck at age 65 at your retirement party dealing with a decades old decree in order to make sure you get your fair share of the decree. Your attorney should be able to help you with these documents, so make sure you follow up with them to ensure it is completed. Do this as soon as possible after the final decree is issued, and keep all your records in case there are any future issues.
Deal with your name change. If you want to get your name changed, try to do everything all at once and as soon as possible to save you the headache. You’ll have to go to the social security office, the department of motor vehicles, and likely contact your bank and utility companies you use. Bring a certified copy of the order which changes your name so that all of these entities can confirm it is legal.
Think about your heirs. When you are looking at life after divorce, you should also consider death after divorce. If your spouse was on your old will, it is important that you draft a new one, especially if you do not want them to receive anything. This is a good idea in general as it is likely your estate will have changed significantly after the divorce. A good probate lawyer can help you with these things. Also, make sure you have changed the beneficiaries on your life insurance (as long as the decree did not maintain your spouse as the beneficiary).
Close all your joint accounts. Even if the decree has awarded you each different accounts, if the other party’s name is still on it, this could be a huge liability for you in the future. The best thing to do is close any joint accounts, and open a brand new one with just your name on it. This includes checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and lines of credit. Make sure the beneficiaries or ‘POD’s on the accounts have reflected who you now want to inherit from you as well.
Change your insurance. Not just your life insurance. You should also speak to the various insurers you have, such as car insurance, health insurance and homeowner’s. Health insurance might be affected by your divorce decree, particularly if you are awarded COBRA coverage for a short time. If you have homeowner’s insurance, make sure you update it to reflect the assets you now own (and no longer own). There is no need to be paying insurance for a bunch of jewelry that is no longer in your home. You could save some significant money by taking this step.
Make things automatic. If you have been ordered to pay child support or alimony, see if you can make these payments automatic to make life after divorce easier. You can have this money taken directly out of your paycheck through an income withholding order before it even gets to you, so you will not have to worry about transferring money over to your ex for their support or the children’s support. This prevents any confusion or chance that you forget, and are subsequently held in contempt of court for failure to make a payment. Check with your attorney to see how you can get this done.
Prepare for the future. This is especially true if you have children that you share with your spouse. Keep a calendar or a journal of important dates and events that occur with your children. For example, if your ex starts missing a lot of their visitation, or prevents you from having yours. The children begin missing a lot of school, or are tardy. All of these things could be used as evidence in a future case changing custody. It helps to make a record of events at or near the same time they happen to use in the future.
Take care of yourself. Divorce is a traumatic experience, even in the most congenial of cases. After the decree is final, try to take a few days to spend on your own. Go out of a town and see a new city. Book a few treatments at the local spa. Or have a few close friends over to cook and chat. It’s important to unwind and reflect about the events that happened for your own mental health. Of course, do not be afraid to speak to a professional counselor to help you through what can be a difficult transition. Life after divorce can be extremely rewarding, but it is not without its challenges.
If you’d like to speak to someone about a divorce, and what it could mean for you in the long run, get in touch for a consultation at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen by calling 201-845-7400.