Thursday, December 22, 2011



After your divorce is finalized by the court, there still may be tasks remaining before your divorce is really final. Some of these you can do yourself. Some may require professional assistance. This non-exhaustive list is designed to help you take all the actions that you need to protect yourself.

- Notify Your Employer. Your employer may have to change information in your employee record, change your health or life insurance plans, or any accounts that regard retirement or a 401(K) program.

- Finances. Implement a budget if you have not done so and monitor all of your income and expenses. Review all of your investments. Obtain a copy of your credit report and make sure that the accounts that you closed were actually closed so and that your credit agency file has been updated.

- Other Important Documents. All of your other important documents such as deeds to real property, automobile titles, stock certificates, bonds, treasury notes and other such items should be reviewed to show correct and accurate information. You may need to transfer ownership to be able to change information on these documents.

- Retirement and Estate Planning. If you have a pension, 401K or an IRA that was divided as a result of the divorce, make sure you obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order that was prepared by the attorneys, agreed by the court, and was submitted to the fund administrator and was implemented. Review your estate plan and update it if necessary. If you have a Civil Service retirement, an Order must be entered and sent to the Office of Personnel management in order to receive a portion of a Civil Service Retirement.

- Notify Your Financial Institutions. Make sure all of your joint accounts are closed and that your former spouse’s name has been omitted from all active accounts and financial records. Close any joint safe deposit boxes or post office boxes and if needed, open new ones.

- Military Benefits. If your divorce involved military benefits, you must send a certified copy of the Final Decree of Divorce to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). If there is a requirement of Protection of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), you must forward the Final Decree and appropriate form within one year, or the benefit is waived. If a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) has been divided, the appropriate Order must be entered and sent to the TSP Board.

- Remarriage. If you plan to remarry, consider a prenuptial agreement.

-Cancel/Change Credit Card Accounts and Other Third Party Accounts. It is important to close all credit card accounts that have both of your names on it you need to make sure that your former spouse’s name is omitted from these accounts. Do not forget to change account information on department store credit cards such as JC Penny, Macy’s, etc. Update the name responsible for paying all utilities, auto insurance, mortgage loans, car payment, etc.

- Update Your Tax Status. Have your tax status changed since you are no longer married and/or change the number of exemptions you claim. If you use someone to prepare your taxes for you, make sure to contact them so they can change your marital status.

- Update Your Insurance Policies. Notify anyone you carry insurance with (health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, etc.). Make sure your marital status is changed and that these policies have your correct names of beneficiaries and people who are insured under your policy. Obtain life insurance that names your former spouse and/or your children as the beneficiaries as required by the divorce decree. Be sure that you understand the terms and conditions of all insurance policies. You may need to provide a copy of your divorce decree. (If you are on your former spouse’s insurance and you want to pay for an extended amount of coverage, you must contact your insurance company and ask about COBRA rights that will allow you to pay for your own coverage for a period of time).

- Ensure the Accuracy of Your Will and Trusts. Make sure you remove your former spouse’s name as a beneficiary or executor on your will or removed from any trust accounts if you do not wish for them to be a beneficiary and make any other necessary adjustments.

- Powers of Attorney need to be revoked. If your former spouse has a Power of Attorney that was given by you, you will need to make sure that it is revoked in writing. Ensure all copies are destroyed. You will need to notify any third parties that previously relied on the power of attorney or may rely on it in the future that the power of attorney has been revoked. (If the power of attorney was recorded as part of a public record, a revocation should be properly recorded as well).

- Social Security Benefits. Your divorce papers and a copy of your marriage license should always be kept because you may be eligible to claim your former spouse’s social security benefits. If you are married for more than 10 years, or if your former spouse dies while making child support payments, you have the right to receive their social security benefits.

- Child Support and Custody. Make sure the Division of Child Support Enforcement has your correct address. You should make sure that you document the dates and amounts of any payments you make or received in child support. If you are the one making the payments, ensure it is being paid on time. Make sure that you give a receipt if you are the one receiving the support or you receive a receipt if you are the one that is paying. Keep all scheduled visitations with the children and if co-parenting is currently an issue or becomes an issue, records should be kept of how the other parent’s visits with the children went and be detailed on any specific issues that arise. Update all contact information for you and your former spouse with the children’s school, daycares or before/after school programs.

- Changing Your Name. If you decide to change your name, you are required to notify and update your records with: the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration, your employer (to make sure your W-2 is correct), your bank and other financial institutions (to ensure a correct W-4), and all credit card companies with whom you have credit. Get a new passport, driver’s license and social security card.

- Taxes. Get your former spouse’s and children’s social security numbers as they may be needed for tax returns. You should consult an attorney and other experts involved in the divorce to provide something in writing that indicates the portion of fees that may be tax deductible under the IRS Code §212. Make sure you record and copies of all tax returns and supporting documents for at least 3 years. If your former spouse gave you assets in the divorce, request tax basis records immediately after the divorce is finalized.

- Support. Keep accurate, detailed records of all child and/or spousal support payments that you make or receive. Do not make direct payments to your former spouse if you are ordered to pay through the Division of Child Support Enforcement.

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