Whether your divorce was amicable or it took a bit of effort to complete, chances are there are a few loose ends that will need to be tied up before you can say you are officially “done.” Below is a list of common follow-up items that many people need to complete after their divorce is finalized. Keep in mind this list is not intended to be a checklist for every divorce.
The very first thing you need to do is read your Judgment and Decree carefully to make sure that you (and your ex-spouse) are following all of the provisions. If you do not understand the terms in your Judgment and Decree, you should contact an attorney to help you understand your responsibilities.
- Certified Copy of Judgment and Decree. You should obtain a certified copy of your Judgment and Decree for future reference. A certified copy is a “special copy” of your divorce decree that contains an official raised stamp from the court administrator. It is not the same as a regular photocopy. This can be done by mailing a request to the court administrator, along with the appropriate fee.
- Change Your Beneficiaries. Once your Judgment and Decree has been entered, you can change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy(ies) and your retirement asset(s). Note, however, that this only applies if you were not ordered to secure a financial obligation (i.e. child support or spousal maintenance) with those assets.
- Real Estate. If real estate is involved, the title will need to be transferred. The transfer documentation is referred to as a Quit Claim Deed or a Summary Real Estate Disposition Judgment. If you were the party responsible for preparing the documentation, you should follow-up with your attorney to make sure they will prepare the necessary documentation. Conversely, if your ex-spouse was ordered to prepare the transfer documentation, you should make sure the documentation is prepared by your ex-spouse. After the transfer documentation has been drafted and signed, it needs to be recorded with the county in order for the transfer of title to be complete. If title is not properly transferred, there will be unwelcome problems with a future re-finance or sale of the property.
- Retirement Assets. If you were awarded money from your ex-spouse’s 401(K) plan or pension plan, the funds may need to be transferred to you by a separate order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This is a separate order that needs to be drafted and submitted to the judge for signature.
- Joint Accounts. All joint bank accounts and credit cards should be closed.
- Passwords. If you have not already done so, you should change all of your passwords and log-in information for your online accounts.
- Credit Cards. If your ex-spouse was listed as a signor on any of your credit cards, you should remove their ability to access that account. Similarly, if you were a signor or joint credit card holder on your spouse’s credit cards, you should remove your access from those credit cards.
- Titles. The titles to your vehicles, boats or other recreational vehicles may need to be transferred. You can work with your ex-spouse directly or through your attorney to make sure the title(s) are transferred to the correct owner.
- Name Change. If your name has been changed, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your name. You will need a certified copy of your Judgment and Decree.
- Estate Planning. If you do not have a Last Will and Testament, it is a good time to think about what would happen to your assets upon your death. If you have a Last Will and Testament that names your ex-spouse and potentially members of their family as beneficiaries, you may want to have it amended.
Remember – just because the ink is dry and you can finally declare that you are officially divorced, you need to pay attention to all follow-up issues outlined in your Judgment and Decree. Otherwise, it may be necessary to ask for cooperation from your ex-spouse years later, which is not always easy and probably not what you both want.