Post-Divorce Checklist: Making Sure Your Split Is Finalized

Post-Divorce Checklist: Making Sure Your Split Is Finalized

Divorce is a significant life event that brings about a wave of change and transition. It’s essential to ensure that all aspects of your split are finalized properly to avoid any loose ends. Having a skilled attorney can be invaluable during this process. Here’s a checklist to help you navigate the post-divorce landscape.

1. Review Your Divorce Decree

Your divorce decree is the final order from the court that legally ends your marriage. Review it thoroughly to understand all the terms and conditions. For a thorough review, you should:

  • Understand All Terms: Read the entire decree carefully to understand all the terms and conditions. Ensure you understand the legal language used. If anything is unclear, consult with your attorney or a legal expert.
  • Check for Accuracy: Verify that all personal information (names, addresses, dates) is correct. Also, check the accuracy of details related to property division, debt allocation, child custody, visitation schedules, spousal support, and child support.
  • Confirm Asset and Debt Division: Ensure that the division of assets and debts is as agreed upon or as ordered by the court. This includes real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and personal property.
  • Understand Custody and Visitation: If children are involved, carefully review the custody arrangements and visitation schedules. Make sure they are practical and in the best interests of the children.

2. Update Legal Documents

After your divorce, you’ll need to update documents that aren’t specifically included in your decree. For most people, this includes estate planning documents like:

  • Wills and Trusts: Ensure these reflect your current wishes and don’t include your former spouse unless you want them to remain a beneficiary.
  • Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives: Review and amend these documents as necessary.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Update beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts.

Failing to update these appropriately can lead to your ex-spouse benefiting from your estate should something happen to you, even if you have remarried. 

3. Handle Property and Asset Division

While your divorce decree will explain how your assets should be divided, the actual division doesn’t happen automatically. You will need to follow the terms of the decree and work with your bank, title company, and other financial institutions to ensure it’s followed. Common requirements include:

  • Transferring Titles: Ensure that titles to property, such as houses and cars, are transferred correctly.
  • Splitting Accounts: Bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investments need to be divided as agreed.
  • Assigning Debt Responsibility: Ensure that any joint debts are handled according to the agreement.

If you have concerns or run into roadblocks navigating these issues, your attorney can help you resolve them and ensure the decree is properly enforced. 

If you haven’t already done so, this is also the time to close any remaining joint accounts. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, and utility accounts. Open individual accounts in your name now that the automatic temporary restraining order no longer prevents you from doing so.

4. Address Child Custody and Support

If children are involved, it’s crucial to follow the custody and visitation schedule as outlined in the court order. This includes drop-off and pick-up times, holidays, and vacations.

If you’re ordered to pay support, you should ensure child support payments are made in full and on time as specified in the order. Use the designated payment method, whether it’s direct payment, wage garnishment, or through a state agency.

Furthermore, it may be necessary to inform the other parent and the court of any significant changes that might affect the custody arrangement, such as relocation, job changes, or changes in the child’s needs. It’s important to maintain open and respectful communication with the other parent when possible about the child’s needs, schedules, and any necessary changes. Use written communication for important discussions to have a record.

5. Change Your Name (If Desired)

If you’ve decided to change your name post-divorce, you’ll need to update your name on all legal documents, including your social security card, driver’s license, passport, bank accounts, and more.

Ensure your divorce decree includes a provision for returning to your maiden name or a previous name. If it doesn’t, you may need to file an amendment in court. 

Next, you should contact the Social Security Administration and fill out the necessary form (SS-5) to have your name changed on your Social Security card. You’ll need to provide proof of your legal name change (like your divorce decree) and identity.

Once your new Social Security card arrives, you should visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with your new Social Security card and divorce decree to update your driver’s license or state ID.

Your official ID will let you update your name with other government agencies (like the IRS, postal service, and voter registration) and with banks, employers, insurance companies, utilities, and other entities where your name is registered.

6. Understand Tax Implications

Post-divorce, your tax situation will change. For example, your marital status as of December 31st of the tax year determines your filing status. If you are divorced by this date, you will file as single or head of household (if you qualify) rather than married filing jointly or separately. Consult with a tax advisor to understand how filing as a single person will affect your taxes, especially regarding alimony and child support.

7. Revisit and Update as Necessary

Life changes, and so might your circumstances. It’s important to revisit the terms of your divorce decree, especially those related to custody and support, and make modifications if necessary. An experienced family law attorney can help you update your decree or child custody and support orders according to your new life circumstances. 

Finalize Your Divorce the Right Way With Rodriguez Lagorio, LLP

Finalizing your divorce thoroughly and correctly with this post-divorce checklist is crucial for starting your new life on the right foot. The skilled attorneys at Rodriguez Lagorio, LLP, can guide you through this process, ensuring that all legalities are handled and that your rights are protected. Remember, it’s not just about legally ending the marriage; it’s about setting the foundation for your future. We encourage you to schedule your consultation with our Fremont and San Francisco divorce law firm today to learn how we can help you set yourself up for success after your divorce.