Receiving your decree does not always mean that you are done with everything you need to do to wrap up your divorce. There can remain many items that you, or your former spouse, still need to do. This can include items the decree ordered and other items not in the decree, but that need to be changed to reflect your new status. Many of these have a time limit and need to be attended to as soon as possible.
Where to start, and what to consider? Start by making a copy of your divorce decree, getting a couple of different color markers, then highlighting the things you need to do in one color and the things your ex-spouse is required to complete in the other color. This will help you plan out what items need to be done and when they need to be completed. Every divorce decree is different, but here are some common areas that require a follow-up.
Titles & Deeds
If you divided property in such a way that you are going to be the sole owner of some property (car, boat, house, etc.), you will need to change the names on the title or deed. This means that both you and your former spouse will need to sign documents, and you should get them signed right away. Otherwise, if you go to sell the property, you will need your ex-spouse to sign off. Even if you parted on good terms, it is unwise to leave these things open-ended. Get the title or deed changed now, while the court order is fresh in everyone’s memory.
Keep in mind that a change of title or deed does not transfer the mortgage or lien upon that property, only its ownership. Taking names off a mortgage is not a standard practice. Most mortgage companies require that you re-qualify or refinance to take your spouse’s name off a mortgage. Car titles are a little more complicated because the title typically connects to the loan. Take a look at the DMV Title page to learn more. Contact your car loan company and see what they need.
After a divorce, review all your insurance policies; auto, home, life, health, and disability. If you listed your spouse as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, you may wish to change that beneficiary to another family member or your children. The same is true for disability policies, accident policies, etc. Automobile and home insurance policies are usually with the same company and the same agent. With the divorce, you will need to split your policies. Contact your agent. See what your options are for getting your own insurance policies. Health insurance is also very important, and time-sensitive. A lot of people, following their divorce, do not contact their agent, or employer, for fear of interrupting their health insurance coverage. This is a false sense of security and a terrible idea. Most insurance policies will terminate coverage of a spouse after the divorce is final. Keeping this news from your insurance agent doesn’t protect you. When the insurance company finds out you are not married, they may refuse to cover you for health care costs retroactive back to the divorce date.
Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, and Online Accounts
Close any joint accounts. The money should have already been divided equally at this point. If you have not yet opened an account solely in your name, take care of that while you’re there. This is true also for credit cards. Make sure the cards are in your name only, and that your name is removed from any credit cards your spouse is still using. You also need to update online accounts like Paypal, Apple Pay, or E-trade. Confirm your spouse isn’t either a signer or a beneficiary. Change your name on these accounts if needed. You should also go through all your email, online accounts, and memberships to change your login, passwords, billing, and shipping information. It doesn’t matter if your spouse didn’t know them, it’s still a wise idea. At this time you should make other changes, such as name, contact information, username, etc.
Pensions and Retirement Accounts
If your decree divided a 401(k) or pension, you will need a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Retirement Order) to make the transfer, and this generally needs to be prepared by an attorney or CPA, then filed with the court. An IRA (Individual Retirement Account) or savings account can usually be split without a QDRO, but you should contact the broker right away to start the process. In either case, you may need the assistance of a CPA or financial planner to ensure that is it all done correctly. In any case, don’t wait on this, as there may be timeframe restrictions on when they need to be completed.
After a divorce, most beneficiaries are automatically voided by Oregon law. However, to avoid a problem, such as an accidental or unknowing payout to your ex-spouse, you need to be sure to change your beneficiary on every bank account, investment account, retirement/401(k) account, and insurance policy you have. This may involve talking to your employer, your insurance agent, your bank, your credit card companies, and your investment adviser. Most places make changing the beneficiary a simple process, but some, especially retirement accounts, may need both legal and financial help to accomplish this correctly.
If you have a will, trust, power of attorney, or medical directive, make sure they reflect where you want your assets to go if something were to happen to you. This includes deciding not only where assets may go, but also who will have the power over them as trustees, personal representatives, etc. If your spouse was a named trustee or personal representative, this may have been voided by the decree, but if someone else is named in those capacities, such as your spouse’s relative, attorney, etc., you may need to change them. The same is true if you previously gave your spouse legal power of attorney over your healthcare or financial decision-making if you became incapacitated or somehow unable to make your own decisions.
Contact your tax preparer or accountant. See if they need any particular information to file your taxes in accordance with the divorce decree. Taxes can get more complicated the year you divorce. If you normally prepare your taxes yourself, this might be a good time to have a professional help. Check back over your divorce decree to make sure that you follow any tax instructions included in the decree.
Did you request a name change in the divorce? If so, you will need to start sending notices out to notify them of the change. In order to change your social security name and have them issue a new card, Social Security Office will require a certified copy of the decree and proof of your identification. You can use your current passport or driver’s license for identification. DMV will also need a certified copy of the decree. Your US Passport should be changed after you have changed your Social Security card and driver’s license. Many other places will need notice of your name change, such as voter registration, bank accounts, credit cards, and utility bills.
Savings and Retirement Planning following a divorce is a very important next step. Setting up and contributing to a retirement account, either on your own or through your employer, can be an economical way to build your financial independence.
This also includes plans for dealing with ongoing and new expenses and debts. Make sure you have a plan for your current expenses. If you have children, you will need to plan ahead for upcoming expenses for them, including school, clothing, vacations, toys, and extracurricular activities. Financial planners can help you create budgets for these important items. Also, your divorce may have hurt your credit score, so make sure you review your credit report now that the divorce is final and, if necessary, make plans to improve your credit so that you can benefit from lower interest rates and other financial opportunities.
If you are concerned about protecting your privacy and property, unless it violates your decree, you can consider changing your phone number, change all your online usernames, passwords, and contact information, set up a P.O address at your post office, get a bank safety deposit box for valuables and important documents.
The divorce can affect your children on several fronts, including behavioral, educational, and health issues, as well as creating new challenges, such as childcare changes, the need for separate bank or investment accounts, and dealing with the ongoing issues that can arise with the changes in custody, visitation, vacations, etc. There are professionals and resources that can be invaluable in helping with all of these issues. Family therapists, counselors, fitness trainers, yoga instructors, divorce coaches, employee assistance wellness plans, and vocational coaches are an example of the many resources you can use to help.
If you need assistance with connecting with professionals in any of the above industries to help you with your divorce checklist, our firm is here to help. We have an extensive referral network that was created for this very reason: to continue offering you support, even after your case with us is over. Call us today at (888) 981-9511 to get connected with the best professional for your unique needs.