The divorce is now final. The agreement is signed. The judge entered judgment. Now what?
Once the divorce is over, there are things that need to be completed. Documents need to be filed, names need to be changed and accounts need to be closed. Failing to tie up all the loose ends can cost you in the future. Here are some things to think about after the divorce is final.
1. Name Changes
If you resumed your maiden name as part of your divorce, you want to make sure that you change all of your identification. This means going to the MVC to change your driver’s license, correcting your Social Security card and information, getting your passport changed and any other forms of personal identification. You will also want to change your name with your credit cards, health insurance, life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other accounts and policies.
This can be time-consuming. It is important to make sure you have this completed. Failure to do so may cause issues renewing your driver’s license, getting care at the doctor’s or gaining access to your money in the bank.
2. Changing of Beneficiary Designations
As part of your divorce, you may be ordered to make specific beneficiary designations for your life insurance and retirement accounts. It is important that you do so in a timely manner. Often, you will be required to provide proof to your former spouse that you have made those designations as required. Otherwise, you may be subject to future litigation.
If you are not required to keep your ex as a beneficiary, you will want to change the designation as soon as possible. Should you die without making the change, your former spouse may receive your benefits instead of a new spouse or partner.
When a couple divorces, there may be retirement accounts that will be divided. In order to roll over or transfer funds to you (or your spouse), a court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order needs to be prepared. This order allows the 401(k) plan or pension to distribute the retirement funds between you both. Without it, you will not be able to receive your retirement funds. It may also impact your ability to receive your own funds upon retirement.
It is important to make sure this is completed as soon as possible following a divorce. By not completing a QDRO, funds may be tied up. It could result in you losing out on making certain investments. It may also be forgotten until you or your former spouse is ready to retire and you find out that you cannot start collecting your pension until the QDRO is completed.
4. Deed Transfers/Title Changes
You may decide to keep the house in the divorce. This may require a new mortgage be obtained. It will definitely require a deed to be prepared to transfer ownership of the property solely into your name. The deed will protect your interest in the home.
In the transfer of the house to one spouse, he or she should also look into obtaining a new title policy. A title company can run a search before the divorce is completed to make sure that there are no liens or judgments against the property. That same title company should be consulted to confirm whether the policy will still be in effect if the house is transferred to you and if not help you to obtain a new title policy. This is important to protect your rights and title in your home.
5. Exchange of Personal Items
Nothing is worse than going into court a year after a divorce to argue whether the correct tools were turned over or to ask for winter coats and other clothing to be given to you. When a couple divorces, it is inevitable that one will leave clothes, jewelry, photo albums or other personal items in the home of the other. The agreement may not specifically state what personal items belong to you, or even if it does it is hard to prove who has possession of which toaster. Fighting it out in court later can be costly and difficult.
In dividing the household contents and collecting your personal items as soon as you can, you can protect your possessions. Leaving them in your ex’s basement subjects the property to loss, damage or destruction. Your ex is not vested in trying to protect your property, so they will not go out of their way to save it in the event of a flood or other catastrophe. It is probably cheaper to pay for a storage space than to try to fight about it in court later.
Tying up the loose ends is important after your divorce is final. Making sure everything is completed can save you from costly litigation and aggravation in the future.