After weeks and months of planning, filling out forms, attending hearings and mediations, and negotiating with your ex-spouse, you are finally done and your divorce is finalized. Congratulations! Before you breathe a sigh of relief and put the whole ordeal behind you, make sure that you take all of the necessary steps to comply with your divorce decree and move on with your life.
During the divorce, all marital property and debts are split up between the spouses. Once the divorce is finalized, each spouse is responsible for turning over any property that is now legally owned by their ex. If one spouse has not yet moved out of the marital home, this process can be as simple as simply taking or leaving property according to the divorce decree. If property needs to be exchanged, the former spouses may want to schedule a day to trade items.
When dividing up property, it is important to remember that each spouse may need to take certain steps to change ownership. For example, the title to a vehicle may need to be signed over to a different person, or arrangements may need to be made to list and sell real estate. The same is also true with debts—if one person is no longer obligated to pay a particular bill, the former spouses may need to negotiate with the lender to send the bill to a different person or remove a person’s name.
Former spouses should also be sure to close all joint bank accounts and credit cards. These accounts can usually be reopened in a single person’s name, so that neither ex has access to the other’s money.
Change Names and Update Contact Information
Whenever a person changes his or her legal name after a divorce, everything will need to be updated with the new legal name. This often requires an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as the Social Security Office.
In addition to these legal changes, be sure to change the names on utility bills, vehicle titles, bank accounts, and so forth. It is often helpful to keep a running list of accounts that should be changed as you think of them, so that you don’t forget anything once the divorce is finalized.
Additionally, remember to change important contact information if you or your former spouse change addresses. You will likely need to inform your children’s school or day care center, your employer, and any creditors that you have.
Update Legal Documents and Policies
In addition to updating your contact information, you should also check any legal documents or policies that you may have. For example, you may need to take your former spouse off of your health or auto insurance policies. You may also need to update your pension or retirement plans.
If you or your former spouse signed an advanced health care directive or power of attorney, these documents should be updated with a new designated decision maker. If you have life insurance, you may need to update your beneficiary if you no longer want the proceeds of your policy to go to your ex-spouse.
Finally, be sure to speak with an estate attorney and update your will or any trust documents. Even though you are now divorced, the provisions of these types of legal documents will not change on their own. If you pass away after your divorce without an updated will, your possessions and assets will still be distributed according to your pre-divorce documents unless you contact your attorney.
Moving On Post-Divorce
Each person has a legal responsibility to comply with the divorce decree. If you or your former spouse fail to turn over property, make child support payments, or follow the visitation schedule, you could both end up back in court. To avoid the hassle of additional court appearances (and possible motions for contempt), be sure to communicate with your former partner if you are having problems complying with the order.
The attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law take great pride in helping people finalize their divorce in an amicable way. We can help you make sure that you are protected if your relationship ends, and will help you resolve potential problems with your former spouse.
To schedule an initial interview contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.