My divorce is final, does that mean I am done? This is a question divorce lawyers often hear. While every divorce is different, generally there is still work to be done post-divorce. The following recommendations should help alleviate some post-divorce stress. Your specific Agreement or Judgment will guide you as to what needs to be done in your particular case.
Review your Agreement or Judgment as soon as possible:
Review your Agreement or Judgment and make a list of all tasks that need to be done and if there is a deadline, note that too. Making a list can ease any stress or overwhelm you are feeling and will help keep you organized.
If you will divide a pension and/or 401K plan, a court must order a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, commonly abbreviated as QDRO. (Note: A QDRO is not necessary to divide an IRA or a SEP. Also, military pensions, federal, state, county and city retirement plans have their own rules regarding division during divorce-be sure to consult your attorney with regard to specific plans.) Often times your divorce lawyer will refer clients to an attorney who specializes in retirement asset division orders. Confirm with your attorney whether or not he/she will be preparing the necessary paperwork or whether you will need to retain an attorney who specializes in this area of the law. Your divorce settlement agreement or Judgment will not necessarily preserve your rights if the proper orders are not signed by the court and submitted to the plan administrator. Follow up with your attorney or QDRO preparer to make sure the plan administrator has pre-approved the Order, the Order has been submitted to the Court for signature, and the Court signed and entered Order has been served on the plan administrator.
Unless you are required to maintain your spouse as beneficiary, update your beneficiary designation on all retirement accounts. If you fail to do this, your former spouse could end up inheriting your retirement upon your death. Also, be sure to check bank, investment, bonds, and other assets that may have beneficiary designations and determine whether those need to be updated.
Update Insurance Policies:
Depending on the terms of your Agreement or Judgment, you may need to update insurance policies:
Health insurance: Revise health insurance coverage for spouse and/or dependents. If insurance is not available through an employer begin COBRA coverage or open a new individual policy.
Life Insurance: Unless you are required to maintain your spouse as beneficiary, change the beneficiary on all life insurance policies.
Other Insurance: Obtain new insurance policies for auto, home, etc. Pay attention to the list of assets scheduled on your homeowner’s policy and confirm that you still own those items.
Review your will and estate documents:
Work with your estate attorney to review, update, and/or create your will, power of attorney for healthcare and finances, a living will, and other documents. If you have any trusts, be sure to review those as well.
If your name changed, update documents:
Contact agencies such as motor vehicle association, social security office, financial institutions, your employer, and any other government agencies to determine what documents you will need to provide in order to change your name or resume your maiden name.
Contact your Accountant:
Review your Judgment or Agreement with an accountant. You may need to change your withholding, pay more or less estimated taxes, and/or change your investment strategy.
Practice Self Care:
While it is important to practice self care during the divorce process, once you are divorced, self care is still very important. Take time to do something that makes you feel good, replenishes your energy, and allows you to tackle issues with a clear head.