After a divorce is finalized, it can feel like you are starting over with a new life. There are a few important legal actions you should take care of to make sure you do not short circuit your fresh start. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most important steps.
Follow Through On Your Property Settlement
If your lawyer has handled things well, you should have a very clear divorce decree that lays out the division of property between each spouse. Major items like a home and car are the most important. These big-ticket items usually have ownership registered with the state, so you will need to tell the government about the new owner. This is likely something you want your lawyer to take care of. All payments need to be made or collected and personal items delivered as well. It is generally best to get everything separated, so do not leave your boat in your ex-wife’s garage, for example. It is also important to keep good records throughout this process. It is often handled informally, but if something goes wrong and you wind up back in court the person with the best-kept records will have an advantage.
Ensure Complete Separation of Accounts
Close out any joint bank accounts and cancel joint credit cards. Notify your employer to update your direct deposit and retirement accounts. You will want to check your tax withholding and maybe change your status. You should also notify the major credit bureaus to help ensure no joint accounts remain open. It seems obvious, but you should make sure to change all your passwords to something your spouse will not guess.
Check Up on Your Estate Planning
This is very important, because forgetting to erase your ex from estate plans can lead to your property being given to your former spouse upon your death. The easiest starting place is your will. That should be updated to not include your ex. Many accounts are also set up to transfer upon death. Retirement accounts and savings accounts often work this way. Life insurance also should be checked, as the spouse is the typical beneficiary and that should be updated. Social Security should be notified as well.
Depending on your state, child support may be supervised by a government entity. Make sure all your records are in place for that. Also, make sure your spouse has the correct address to ensure correspondence can be sent back and forth. If the government does not handle these transactions in your state, you may want a lawyer or other third party to stand between you and your former spouse.
Do not forget to notify anyone that deals with your kids. For example, their school and daycare should be updated so they know to share information with both parents instead of assuming both are working together.
Change Your Name if Necessary
If you are changing your name, be sure to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security, your employer, and your financial institutions.