As attorneys who regularly counsel clients on how to protect themselves and what to plan for while going through divorce, many people do not realize that we also have to make sure that our clients complete certain actions even after they obtain their divorce judgment. However, these actions are vital in order to ensure that your divorce is complete and you move forward with a future whereby you are financially stable and free to make decisions as you see fit.
1) Identifying Documents & Account Changes
First and foremost, you will want to make changes to your main identifying documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc. Once these are changed, it is easier to make additional changes to bank accounts, credit cards, homeowner’s title, registration and auto insurance for your car, etc.
2) Estate-Related Documents
You also want to follow through on changes to documents related to estate planning, such as your will and beneficiary forms for any brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts (401(k)s, IRAs, pensions, etc.). This also includes documents that designate who will make major decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated, including your power of attorney and healthcare surrogate. Consult your attorney to make sure that any changes you make to estate documents conform to your settlement agreement.
3) The Family Home
You also want to make changes to what is likely your most valuable asset: the family home. Whether you are continuing to own your home with your ex, selling it, buying out their interest, etc., you will want to make sure that the relevant changes are made to the title and deed to reflect your new status. You do not want to find yourself having to deal with your ex still being on the deed when you go to sell your home 10-15 years later.
4) Mandatory Obligations in Divorce Decree
Also make sure that you sit down with your attorney and understand all of your mandatory obligations pursuant to the settlement agreement, such as any property that needs to be transferred in a timely manner, child support, time sharing and parenting plans, alimony/spousal support, etc. Keep in mind that, if you need to transfer any portion of a retirement plan or pension, you and your attorney will need to file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).