Your divorce decree does not describe what to do after the divorce to complete your financial and legal separation. This article describes the top 10 things to do after divorce that your lawyer likely didn’t mention.
You finally finalized your divorce. Now you want to relax in that sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, most divorce lawyers and mediators don’t tell people what to do after the divorce in order to practically finalize the details. Even the most clearly set issues in your divorce judgment don’t come automatically. You and your ex-spouse will have to do many of these practical tasks yourself.
Three seasoned family mediators (Meg Goldberg, Linda Scher, and Stuart Watson) worked together to create the following list to help figure out what to do after a divorce.
Here’s what to do after the divorce
1. Receive certified copies of your divorce decree
Buy a couple of extra certified copies of your divorce decree from the district court where your divorce was filed. Certain organizations may require you to produce a certified copy to authorize them to make changes after the divorce. This may be necessary, for example, to make name changes on your passport or social security card.
2. Satisfaction with monetary judgments
Divorce judgments can include compensation for real estate, investments, business interests, or debts. You may also have child or spouse support assignments. These cash bonuses exist before the family court, similar to a lien tied to your name. Once you’ve made the final payment, you have the right to have your ex-spouse sign a “satisfaction of judgment”. Submit this judgment satisfaction form to the court. By doing this, you are informing prospective lenders that you have fulfilled your responsibility for each of these monetary judgments.
3. Real estate title
If either of you buys or transfers a real estate interest to the other, you must transfer the title. This can be done through the district’s recorder office and requires that the person clearing interest in the property signs a “bargain and sale deed” or a “notice of termination”. You can obtain these forms through some paralegal or legal publishers. You can avoid these steps if either of you is refinancing the property on your behalf only. In this case, the title will be reassigned through your title company.
4. QDRO Pension Fund Department
Most employer-sponsored and some other types of retirement accounts and annuities require a separate court order called a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) to split them up. The QDRO is prepared by a specialized lawyer. The QDRO instructs the pension plan administrator how the account should be split. You will usually file your QDRO after submitting the divorce decree to the court. However, working with this attorney before filing your divorce will help you verify that the QDRO language is properly spelled in your divorce decree.
5. Vehicle title and insurance
Has your divorce transferred ownership of a vehicle (car, motorcycle, etc.) from one person to another, or from joint ownership to sole ownership? If so, you will need to contact the automotive department in your state to confirm the correct steps to transfer the title. Next, contact your auto insurance company to update your policy.
6. Life insurance
Contact your life insurance company to update your marital status, insurance level, and beneficiaries. Some of these changes may be set out in your divorce settlement. If you are getting divorced in Oregon or a state with a similar arrangement, your ex-spouse’s life insurance company may need to notify you if they change a policy in which you are the beneficiary or trustee. To do this, you will need to send the insurance company a letter to this effect along with a certified copy of your divorce decree.
7. Bank and Financial Accounts
Contact the financial institution directly to ensure that the person assigned to each checking, savings, and credit card account is the only person authorized to use that account. To remove your name from an account, you may need to personally sign a form at the bank.
8. Credit Report
Make sure you don’t have any credit accounts tied to your ex. A full credit report is available on this website. Update or close any accounts that you no longer use or that no longer appear in both names. Warning: If you are going to be refinancing or applying for a significant loan in the near future, check with your lender before taking action on your loan as it may be offset against you.
9. Make or update your will
Make or update your “last will and will” during this mature transition. What would you like to do with your possessions, assets, and debts when you pass away? You can also use your will to indicate your children’s assigned guardians if you both have passed away. If you have an estate attorney, ask them what to do after the divorce to make sure your estate is protected.
10. Health Insurance, Disclosure, and Policies
If you lose coverage, call your health insurer to update your marital status or find a new health insurance plan. If you have been covered by each other’s plan, you can learn about continued COBRA coverage.
Call your doctor and health care providers if you need to know who has the authority to make decisions and provide health care directives on your behalf. You may also want to update the HIPAA forms on file with your health care providers. The HIPAA forms allow you to indicate what types and with whom your personal health information may be disclosed.