Now it’s done. The judge has signed the Final Decree of Divorce, severing the last link in the chain between your old life and the new one that awaits. We know this moment can be exciting and a little scary, but there’s a lot you can do — should do — to keep your post-divorce transition as stress-free as possible. We have put together this handy checklist so you can tie off the loose ends and move on with peace of mind.
While you can handle some post-divorce tasks on your own, you may consider getting the help of an attorney for others. For instance, an estate planning attorney can help you develop or reorganize your estate plan to reflect the recent changes in your life. As a full-service law firm, we’re equipped to help with all your post-divorce matters. Call 303-688-0944 to find out how we can help and begin a case assessment.
Review Your Divorce Decree
First, make sure you have a certified copy of your decree and keep it in a safe place. You may consider investing in a fire-proof and waterproof box to hold important papers related to your divorce, like your divorce decree.
The final decree lists all the terms of your divorce that the court expects you and your ex-spouse to follow, including:
- child custody and parenting time
- child support and spousal maintenance payments
- division of assets and marital property
- other matters specific to your divorce
Be sure to transfer all assets as ordered in the decree. You’ll want to check to make sure your ex does the same. This is part of the post-divorce transition.
If you believe the court erred in any of the matters in your decree, you can seek to change them with the help of a family law attorney. However, it’s best in the short run to comply with the court’s decision.
Cancel Joint Accounts
It’s almost a given that you and your ex-spouse shared joint accounts from bank accounts and a cell phone plan to credit cards and your TV streaming service. You don’t want to be on the hook for accounts you no longer use or purchases you didn’t make. Cancel those joint accounts and open new ones. In addition to not being caught with extra bills, having current accounts in your name will help your credit score.
While we’re on the topic of credit scores, it’s important to know that credit card companies are not bound by divorce judgments. So it’s in your best interest to be proactive and notify any accounts on which your spouse was the primary cardholder that you no longer want to be the card and that you are not responsible for charges on it.
Change Your Usernames and Passwords
No post-divorce transition is complete without this step. Change your passwords on all email and online accounts you still use, especially if your ex was ever aware of them.
Where you can, it’s a good idea to change your username as well. Follow this process especially on social media sites if you want to keep your ex from potentially hacking into your account.
Sort Out Insurance Policies
Carefully review all insurance policies — home, car, life, and health — to see if you need to make any changes. For example, if you kept the house in the divorce, make sure your homeowner’s policy reflects the fact that your ex is no longer on the deed. Likewise, if you didn’t get the house, make sure you’re not the one paying the premiums, unless you’ve agreed to as part of the divorce arrangement.
If you have life insurance policies, you might feel it’s best to change beneficiaries as soon as you can. If you relied on your ex-spouse’s health insurance before, look into getting your own, either through your work, the Affordable Care Act, or COBRA.
Revise Estate Documents and Beneficiaries
In Colorado, state law provides protection for divorced individuals who listed their ex as their beneficiary or gave them medical decision-making power. Your ex could not pull the plug on you, so to speak, or collect on a life insurance policy.
Nevertheless, if your most recent will or trust decrees that your estate shall go to your ex, you should draft a new one that includes new beneficiaries. The same goes for any advance health care orders or powers of attorney to make critical decisions if you are unable.
Also, keep in mind that many investment and 401K accounts have a “payable on death” (POD) provision designating a specific person to receive the funds from those accounts when you die. Most spouses designate the other spouse as the beneficiary and may forget they’ve done so. Be sure you change that, too, if this applies to your situation.
Complete Your Name Change
If you changed your name after you got married and have decided to revert to your original surname after divorce, make sure to follow through. Your married name is on every piece of identification you have, as well as on most of your mail. So if you’re changing your name back, let the various agencies in your life know. The Social Security Administration should be first among them.
If you’re yet to complete the official name change, you can do so by presenting your identification — a driver’s license or passport — and a certified copy of your divorce decree to the Social Security office.
Notify Close Contacts of Your Status Change
While it’s likely your close friends and family will know what’s going on during your post-divorce transition, they’re not the only ones who need to know. Above all, your employer must be kept up to date.
Once you get divorced, it will impact your tax status, retirement accounts, and who can be on your health insurance. So, above all, let your employer’s human resources department know of the change so they can make the necessary adjustments.
Additionally, if you have school-aged children, you need to update your contact information with school officials so you can receive important updates or be notified during an emergency.
Let an Attorney Help with Your Post-Divorce Needs
Many people are so relieved to be out of their old marriage that they put off necessary post-divorce tasks and end up regretting it later. A member of our Family Law Team or another practice area can help look after your most tedious post-divorce tasks so you can focus on your new life. Call 303-688-0944 for a assessment of your needs.