Although “divorce parties” are real, at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford, we recommend doing a few more things in addition to celebrating. There will be some loose ends to tie up after your divorce is finished. It’s important to take care of these issues quickly to protect yourself.
You’ll need this document to show various institutions you are no longer married. Your divorce lawyer can take care of this for you. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you’ll need to request however many copies of the decree you’d like from the clerk’s office. Some agencies will take your original decree to add to your file or application, so keep that in mind if you were only planning to order one copy. Having 3-4 copies is advisable.
Check your life insurance, bank account, investment account, and other accounts with beneficiaries. Calling a bunch of 1-800 automated phone lines is no fun. Trying to figure out where on your online portal or dashboard your beneficiaries are listed is also a chore. However, it is vital. Some divorce settlements will stipulate you must keep your ex as a beneficiary. If not, update them right away.
Like many of the other tasks on this list, this is time-consuming. Maybe you can just start with your email, bank, and social media passwords, then, a bit down the road, update your other passwords and PINs. Even if you don’t think your ex knows your passwords, updating them is still recommended. Likewise, ask your ex to please update his or her passwords so there is no suspicion or confusion if a breach occurs to their accounts. Don’t forget ATM card PINs.
After a divorce, read through your will and update your address, property, marital status, beneficiaries, executor, and how you’d like your estate to be handled, as needed. Often, people think, “I’m leaving everything to my kids, so there’s nothing to update.” This is rarely the case. Please consult your estate planning lawyer as the recommended strategy for a single person may be very different than the strategy for a married person.
Also, review your advanced directive or “living will.” You probably don’t want your ex in charge of deciding whether you get taken off life support or not. Finally, if your ex had Power of Attorney over some aspect of your finances, health, legal business, or something else, ensure that this situation is updated as needed.
The process of reverting to a maiden name, unfortunately, requires more than simply an in-person visit to your local Social Security office. Once the Social Security Administration updates your name and issues a new Social Security card, you’ll then need to update your driver’s license, passport, loan accounts, and so on. Again, it’s time-consuming.
Many people put it off for years, forget about it altogether, and then get turned away from an international flight because they forgot about updating their passport. Some name change services can provide some assistance with these tasks as well. You will need your official divorce decree to get started with this. Simply stating on your court documents that you’d like to change your name back is not enough.
A Qualified Domestic Relation Order (QDRO) must be filed after your divorce if you need to have a pension or other retirement plan divided. This is one of the most common things we see neglected after a divorce. One reason is that not all divorce attorneys do QDROs (commonly referred to as “Quadros”). They are complex, intimidating, and typically not urgent, so people put them off. Our office does handle QDROs, so we can tell you that if anything happens to your ex’s pension before you file the QDRO, you could be out of luck for good. Don’t delay!
Most people do list their spouse as an emergency contact at work, school, on applications, and so on. Don’t forget your children’s emergency contacts, where applicable. If you are on good terms with your ex and don’t have anyone nearby, leaving your ex as your contact person might be ideal, but it’s a good idea to ask your ex about it.
If you were previously insured via your spouse’s auto, health, or life insurance policy, you’ll need to get your own policy now. After a divorce is finalized, you may have as little as 30 days to get new insurance if you were insured through your spouse. Remember there is government-sponsored health insurance, “gap insurance” like Aflac, or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) benefits to help you through the transition if needed. Expect a different car insurance rate, as married people usually get a discount.
Again, a top-notch Annapolis divorce lawyer should handle things like this for you or, at least tell you what you need to do to get it done. If you or your ex is going to be staying in a house you owned jointly or retaining a jointly-owned vehicle, it’s important to remove the non-owning spouse’s name from the deed. A Deed of Trust to Secure Assumption or Specialty Warranty Deed is needed. Again, your divorce lawyer should know which type of deed is needed based on how the title was held and will be held. Be careful with Quitclaim Deeds, as they may have tax and other consequences.
Each couple is unique, and every divorce is different. Be sure you execute anything that you were required to do in your divorce decree. Maybe you need to delete some of your spouse’s files off your computer, get that wedding ring tattoo removed, or start a college savings account for your child—whatever it is, be sure to follow through on what you agreed to in the settlement.
If this is going to be your first year without your spouse and kids on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, or your child’s birthday, plan ahead. The first year can be the hardest. Do you need to buy plane tickets so you can spend the holidays with your parents or siblings? Do you need to distract yourself with a “guy’s weekend” or some other outing? Planning ahead for these difficult days can take a lot of the sting away.
Although this is by no means necessary, with all the financial accounts being changed, updated, closed, paid off, divided, and so on, we highly recommend keeping your finger on the pulse of your credit report through the divorce process. Mistakes are made all the time. You can sign up for a credit monitoring service, check your report or score through your credit card company, or request free reports from each of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Checking your credit “the wrong way” too often can actually dock your score, as it looks like you’re applying for numerous loans or apartments to rent and being turned down. Be wary of that as you pick which avenue is right for you.
Most divorces have a profound impact on people’s financial situations—you might be going from a home-owner to a renter, you might have seen a significant reduction in your retirement accounts, paying child support and/or alimony may have significantly impacted your take-home pay, you might be entering the workforce for the first time, and so on.
Educate yourself about how to best move forward so you can still save, retire, own a home, or whatever else. At the very least, grab one of the many books available out there outlining how to financially re-group after divorce.
If it’s still possible to pay off joint debts with, for example, the money you two make from selling your marital home, we recommend doing so. Dividing marital debts can sometimes be trickier than dividing assets because there is some trust involved that each person will uphold their end of the agreement. Removing one person’s name from a joint account may seem easy, but often, it causes a rate increase or some other hurdle. Bottom line: ensure all joint accounts are closed at the time of the divorce.
Divorce is a complex process – before, during, and after the case in court. The Law Office of Patrick Crawford is ready to guide you through this challenging time. Our Annapolis family law firm is located at 170 West Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. To schedule a free consultation, call our office directly or use our web contact form.