Your Post-Divorce Checklist

by Dec 23, 2023Divorce0 comments

Financial, Family, and Legal Aspects

It’s finally done. Your divorce is final. And whether you’re celebrating or grieving, there are still things that need to be done before you can close the door on that chapter of your life. Failure to do certain things now could haunt you years down the road, so now is the time to make sure you’ve taken care of every last detail. You may even want to consider making an appointment with a skilled financial planner or wealth manager.

Before we go any further, make sure you have a copy of your final divorce decree! You may need it for some of the following updates you’ll have to make.

Division of Property

The court has ruled on how the property is to be divided, but now it’s up to the two of you to actually follow through. If you were still living together, who is moving out – and when? Even if one spouse has already left the home, pick a date to finalize the move. Make a plan to get the moving party’s personal belongings and any furniture, bedding, sentimental items like photographs, family heirlooms, or decorations out of the house. The sooner, the better. And if your divorce was particularly contentious, consider having a witness to ensure that the court’s orders are being followed and that no belongings are being hidden or taken without permission.

Who is keeping the house? Whether there is a buy-out by one party or the property is awarded entirely to one party, you’ll want to make sure the person who is not keeping the property signs a quit-claim deed, which gives up their rights to the property. Conversely, the person who is signing the quit-claim deed should first ensure their name is off of any existing mortgage!

If you’ve agreed to sell the home, set the date to make an appointment with the listing realtor and get the house on the market.Property may also include your vehicles, among other things. Make sure your car titles are in the name of the person keeping the vehicle, and only their name. Even if the car is titled in your name only, if you’ve had the forethought to title your car with a transfer on death clause, you may need to change that as well.

Protect your Credit

You’ll want to get your ex-spouse’s name off of your credit cards as soon as possible. The easiest way is to simply close any joint accounts and open a new one in your name only. Likewise, make sure your name comes off of any accounts they may be using. Pull a copy of your credit report and make sure there aren’t any accounts you don’t recognize or you have forgotten about. Otherwise, you could still be liable for any debt occurred on that account, so the sooner you disentangle your financial connections, the better.

Stack of credit cards on a laptop keyboard

Beneficiaries

All of your accounts that required you to list a beneficiary upon opening should be reviewed. If the beneficiary is your ex-spouse, plan in advance who you would like to change it to and make sure you know that person’s social security number and address, as you will likely need to enter that information. Accounts to consider changing include:

  • Checking account
  • Savings Account
  • 401K
  • IRA
  • Investment Accounts
  • Pension
  • Health Savings Account
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Car Title
  • Deed
  • Mortgage
  • Company-offered benefit plans

Your Estate Plan and Power of Attorney

If you’ve already taken the time to formalize your estate plan and name your Power of Attorney and estate executor, now is the time to review this with your estate planner. It’s a good idea to review this plan periodically anyway, but it’s crucial that you do so now. Otherwise, your ex-spouse could be the person who ends up making your medical decisions if you become incapacitated. That may be fine with some people, but for others it might be their worst nightmare.

Understanding Tax Implications

Many tend to overlook tax implications after divorce. Initially, you might need to consult with your financial planner or wealth manager to fully understand the implications of your new financial situation. Consider questions such as who gets the dependent exemption if you have children? How are support payments taxed? Your tax status – whether you file as a single person, head of household, etc., will also likely change post-divorce. Furthermore, things like home equity and retirement plan withdrawals could also have tax implications. Therefore, an expert opinion is often invaluable in these areas to ensure you’re not leaving any room for errors.

Dealing with Alimony and Child Support

After the divorce decree is finalized, make sure you keep track of alimony and child support payments. Keeping a record of support payments can save you from potential disputes. Even if you have a great relationship right now and you can’t imagine that your ex would ever try to cheat you, remember that a new partner might come into their life at some point who may hold some animosity toward you and relish the opportunity to stir up a little drama.

Adjusting to Changes in Income and Lifestyle

After the dust settles, your lifestyle and income might not be the same. This stage calls for financial discipline and budgeting. Nips and tucks in your lifestyle might be necessary. These may include change of residence or cutting down on certain expenses. The overall goal is to live within your new income level without depleting savings. The old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” stands true. Remember, it’s just a phase and things will eventually get better.

Parenting and Family Dynamics

Children’s Reaction to Divorce

Children often have varied reactions to a divorce. Some may express anger, others, depression or anxiety. As parents, it’s crucial to provide them with the requisite emotional support. Maintain open lines of communication. Encourage children to share their feelings and assure them that they’re not alone in this journey. Consistency in routine also helps children adapt to the new family structure. Minimize disruption to their schedules as much as possible to help them adjust to the changes.

Maintaining a Positive Relationship with Children

Retaining a positive relationship with your children post-divorce is crucial. To do this, maintain a respectful and cordial relationship with your ex-partner in front of them. Never make your children feel like they have to choose sides or bear the burden of your adult conflicts. This principle is key in the family law practice.

Schedule a Free Legal Consultation

Life after divorce might seem daunting, but it’s important to remember that with the right guidance and resources, you can navigate this life transition with ease. Updating your legal documents should be a priority post-divorce, making it essential to engage with professionals who can guide you through this process. Family law attorneys like those at Kirkland & Sommers can assist in ensuring all of the details have been considered when going through the post-divorce checklist. They will also be able to recommend mediators or suggest when you might need to engage with a financial planner. Being proactive in consulting with experts and following a comprehensive post-divorce checklist can help to ensure a smooth transition into your new life stage. Let us help you as you embark on your new journey… call us today to schedule a free consultation and let’s get started!