You have finally accomplished your legal divorce. Now you would like to relax into that sense of completion. Unfortunately, most divorce lawyers and mediators don’t inform people what to do after divorce to practically finalize the details. Even the most clearly specified topics in your legal divorce judgment don’t automatically happen. You and your ex-spouse must complete many of these practical tasks yourselves.
To help people identify what to do after divorce, three highly experienced Family Mediators (Meg Goldberg, Linda Scher, and Stuart Watson) worked together to develop the following list.
Here’s What to Do After Divorce
1. Obtain Certified Copies of Your Divorce Judgment
Purchase a couple of extra certified copies of your divorce judgment from the county courthouse where your divorce was filed. Certain organizations may require you to provide a certified copy to authorize them to make changes after divorce. For example, you may need this to make name changes on your passport or social security card.
2. Have Your Ex Sign a Satisfaction of Money Judgment
Divorce money award judgments can include settlement payments for property, investments, business interests, or debts. You may also have child support or spousal support orders. These money awards exist in the family court similar to a lien attached to your name. Once you have made the final payment, you are entitled to have your former spouse sign a “Satisfaction of Judgment.” File this judgment satisfaction form with the court. By doing this, you will inform potential lenders that you have satisfied your responsibility for each of these money judgments.
3. Transfer the Real Estate Title
If either of you are buying or transferring your real estate interest to the other, you will need to transfer the title. This can be done through that County’s Recorder office and requires that the person releasing interest in the property signs a “Bargain and Sale Deed” or “Quit Claim Deed.” You can obtain these forms through some paralegals or legal publishing companies. You can avoid these steps if one of you are refinancing the property in your name alone. In this case, the title will be re-assigned through your title company.
4. Will You Need a QDRO to Divide the Retirement Accounts?
Most employer-sponsored and some other types of retirement accounts and pensions require a separate court order called a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) to divide them. The QDRO is prepared by a specialized attorney. The QDRO directs the retirement plan administrator on how to divide the account. You will typically submit your QDRO to the court after filing the Divorce Judgment. However, if you begin working with that attorney before filing your divorce, you can verify the QDRO language in your divorce judgment is properly written.
5. Transfer the Vehicle Title and Update Your Insurance Policy
Did your divorce transfer ownership of a vehicle (car, motorcycle, etc.) from one person to the other or from co-ownership to sole ownership? If so, you will need to contact the Motor Vehicle Department in your State to confirm the proper steps to transfer the title. Next, contact your auto insurance company to update your policy.
6. Tell the Life Insurance Company to Inform You if Your Ex Tries to Change the Policy
Contact your life insurance company to update your marital status, insurance levels, and beneficiaries. Some of these changes may be specified by your divorce agreement. If you are getting a divorce in Oregon or a State with a similar regulation, your former spouse’s life insurance company can be required to inform you if they change a policy in which you are the beneficiary or trustee. To make this happen, you must send the insurance company a letter requesting this, along with a certified copy of your divorce judgment.
7. Remove Your or Your Ex’s Name from Bank and Financial Accounts
Contact the financial institution directly to ensure that the person to whom each checking, savings, and credit card account is awarded is the only person who is authorized to use that account. To remove your name from an account, you may have to sign a form in person at the bank.
8. Obtain a Complete Credit Report
Make sure you don’t have any credit accounts tied to your ex. You can obtain a complete credit report from this website. Update or close any accounts which you are no longer using or which will no longer be in both of your names. Beware: If you are refinancing or applying for a significant loan in the near future, consult your lender before taking any action relating to your credit as it may be counted against you.
9. Create or Update Your Will
Create or update your “Last Will and Testament” during this ripe transition. What do you want to happen with your possessions, assets, and debts when you are deceased? You can also use your will to specify the assigned legal guardians of your children if you are both deceased. If you have an estate attorney, ask them what to do after divorce to ensure your estate is protected.
10. Update Your Health Insurance, Disclosure, and Directives
Call your healthcare plan provider to update your marital status or identify a new health insurance plan if you are losing coverage. If you have had coverage through the other’s plan, you can learn about continuation of coverage through COBRA.
Call your health care provider and practitioners if you need to update who has authority to make decisions and give health care directives on your behalf. You may also want to update the HIPAA forms on file with your health care providers. On the HIPAA forms, you can specify what types and with whom your personal health care information can be disclosed.
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