Divorce proceedings require a tremendous amount of energy and time. It’s go, go, go, and the energetic let down when a divorce is finalized often takes clients by surprise. The temptation to tuck things away in a file drawer and never look back is natural, but there are several things you should do first.
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7 Things to Do After Your Divorce is Finalized
We advise clients to honor the finalized divorce by taking care of these seven checklist items before charging forward into their new life.
Make copies and keep key documents in a safe place
There are certain things you will want to hold onto indefinitely after your divorce because you may need them later on. These include originals and copies of:
- Your original marriage certificate/license
- Your finalized divorce paperwork
- Separate copy of spousal support/child support/custody/visitation documents
- Financial statements (courts often ask for years’ worth of these records if either party ever asks for spousal/child support modifications
- Settlement agreement from the divorce
We recommend keeping originals in a locked, fireproof drawer or safe, with copies held in an easy to access file cabinet.
Complete anything laid out in your divorce/child custody orders
If you are responsible for taking any actions as part of the divorce decree, do it without hesitation. This includes things, like:
- Dividing or allocating relevant properties as ordered
- Changing any ownership or titles for cars, boats, other toys to reflect the finalized divorce
- Making alimony or child support payments in-full and on-time
- Following any instructions provided by the courts or your lawyer
If you don’t take care of ordered business immediately, the courts may fine you or penalize you further.
Close and reopen financial/credit accounts
If you haven’t already done so, it is essential that you speak to any and all financial institutions, credit card companies, retirement account holders, etc., and let them know your divorce is final. In some cases, presenting them with the finalized divorce papers will be enough to remove a spouse from the account.
However, more and more, financial companies and credit card companies require customers to close existing accounts and reopen new ones to ensure a former spouse doesn’t have access to your money, your credit, or your personal information.
Update (or create) your estate plan
When one spouse dies, the remaining spouse automatically inherits everything unless there is an estate plan stating otherwise. Similarly, if your ex-spouse is currently listed as a beneficiary or POD (pay on death) recipient, s/he will automatically receive any funds from those accounts when you die. It doesn’t matter if you were divorced 20 years ago and remarried, or if your children believe they were entitled to the funds, financial institutions honor the most recent beneficiary, POD name, or will/trust information without question.
Verify insurance coverage will your carriers
Connect with insurance carriers (homeowners, health, auto, life, etc.) to ensure you are still covered and to verify whether they need any additional documentation or information. Many policies and premiums are structured according to whether an individual is married, single, or divorced – and they consider it your responsibility to let them know when legal status changes.
Make name changes with proof of divorce documents ASAP
If your divorce has inspired you to change your name, do it now. It takes quite a bit of time and paperwork so the sooner you get going, the sooner it will all be done. Even when you think you are done, odds are there will be an account, a travel membership, a club, nonprofits you’ve donated money to in the past – who have you listed under your former name.
Start with name changes for:
- Social Security
- Driver’s license
- Passport/REAL ID
- Your employer and HR office
- Children’s school documents
- Financial accounts
- Retirement savings
- Investment accounts
- Credit cards
- PayPal and other financial vendors
- Magazine subscriptions
- Travel/airline memberships
It does take time and diligence, but it pays off to have your legal name accurately reflected across the board.
Practice self-care when your divorce is finalized
As we mentioned in the introduction, divorce proceedings require a tremendous amount of time, energy, and stamina. All of the steps you have to take to keep the process moving forward, combined with other life changes that coincide with a divorce – such as finding a new place to live, moving, changing work or schools, family and friend reactions, etc. – can take their toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Now that you are in the post-divorce phase, practice self-care in the form of quiet time, restorative activities that bring you joy, finding the support of an experienced family therapist, joining a support group for divorced adults and/or single parents – all can help you reclaim your life in a healthy and balanced way.
We Can Get You Through Your Divorce
Are you deciding whether or not to get divorced? Are you trying to navigate a DIY divorce and need professional support. Set up a consultation with The Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone and we’ll help you choose the least complicated way to get your divorce finalized as peacefully and seamlessly as possible.