So, you're there! You're divorced! You take a look at the final Decree and breathe a sigh of relief. However, here are a few suggestions to make sure all of those pesky loose ends are tied up neatly.
If, as a part of the Decree, you have been awarded a division of your ex-spouse's retirement account(s), make sure your portion of the account(s) is actually transferred to your individual account, set aside in your individual name, or reserved in your name for distribution at a future date pursuant to the plan. If the plan is a "qualified plan," such as a 401(k) or pension, follow up with your attorney within 60 days to make sure the appropriate Qualified Domestic Relations Orders have been sent to the plan administrator. [Beware: QDROs may take several months to be approved by the plan administration, so calendar follow-up dates every three months until you receive confirmation that the funds have been transferred.]
Homestead and other tax exemptions do not follow the new owner if the real estate is transferred – even if quitclaimed from husband and wife jointly to husband or wife individually. If you have received ownership of real estate via a Quitclaim Deed, you must re-file your tax exemptions with the county. Take a copy of the Quitclaim Deed with you to the county office in case it has yet to be recorded and entered into the county records.
If you do not wish your former spouse to be a beneficiary of your life insurance, retirement account, annuity policy, life estate, trust, and paid on death account, you should immediately notify the company and/or plan administrator that you wish to change the beneficiary designation. Keep a record of your contact with the company and/or administrator, and continue to follow up until you have confirmation that the beneficiary designation has been changed. Trust documents, deeds showing a remainder interest, and paid on death accounts should be changed as soon as practicable after the divorce decree is finished. Also, update your Last Will and Testament and/or Living Trust documents to reflect your new marital status and to name new beneficiaries.
Close any joint credit card and bank accounts and/or transfer those accounts to your individual name. We also recommend that you monitor your credit report for a year or so to make sure your spouse is not opening credit card or loan accounts in your name or otherwise using your social security number without your knowledge.
If you have children, open a child support account with the clerk's office of the county where your divorce was granted (if you didn't already do so during the divorce proceeding). We recommend that all child support payments be made through the state so that all payments are properly recorded and distributed.
Notify doctor's offices, schools, day care providers, and other healthcare or educational providers that you and your spouse are divorced. If special arrangements need to be made for attendance at appointments and school events, or for pick up and drop off of the children, provide a copy of that portion of the Decree to the office and make sure everyone knows about the required arrangement. Do not forget to change addresses with all healthcare and educational providers (both mail and email) so that you are getting all of the pertinent information.
If you have changed your name, you will need to obtain a certified copy of the Decree and/or court order granting the name change. You may obtain the certified copy at the clerk's office in the county where the divorce was granted. There will be a fee, and most offices will not take personal checks. Come prepared to pay cash.
Check the Bureau/Department of Motor Vehicles website for information and documentation you will need to take with you to change your name and address on your driver's license. Do the same for the Social Security Administration. Make sure you have all of the documents required BEFORE you go. Government agencies do not make exceptions to the required documentation.
Keep a copy of your Decree for reference, along with a copy of the parenting time statute or guidelines (depending on the state where you live). If there is ever a disagreement between you and your ex-spouse as to distribution and/or parenting time set forth in the Decree, those documents are your "go to" resources for quick answers.
This article is not intended to be an all-inclusive list or description of everything that needs to be done to tie up loose ends after your dissolution, and may not address all of your individual and specific needs. If you have additional questions or comments, please contact us. We will be happy to talk to you about your individual questions and needs.