Making it Final: Your Post-Divorce Checklist
Even though your divorce is coming to a close, you're likely not finished just yet. You may feel impatient to put your divorce behind you and move forward with your life; but to do that, you need to make sure everything with your divorce is neatly squared away.
As a newly divorced person, you may have new responsibilities, expenses, obligations, and a few additional items on your to-do list. You might need to make some changes to your financial situation, update your legal documents, and create a new plan for your immediate and long-term goals.
Make sure you run through this checklist after your divorce to protect your interests and prepare for the future:
1. Know Your Divorce Decree
You went over your divorce decree with your attorney, but make sure you go over it a second time, and maybe a third and fourth. It is crucial that you understand your divorce decree inside and out. Go over it on your own, take some time to understand each point, and ask your attorney if you have any concerns or questions. A divorce decree will also make specific declarations about your responsibilities after your divorce. Usually, the court gives you 30 days to accomplish the orders in the decree, so make sure you do everything promptly.
The decree may ask you to divide specific properties as stipulated in your property division, transfer titles of ownership, transfer debts, etc. There are usually several significant changes that happen after the divorce process, so make sure you pace yourself and handle everything you need to within your time restraint.
2. Change Your Name
If you changed your name when you were married, you might wish to start going by your maiden name again. If so, make sure you start making the appropriate appointments and make that switch legal. Start with the Social Security Office, then the DMV. Once you’ve changed your social security card and driver’s license, you can file for a new passport and make the necessary changes to your bank accounts, credit cards, and other important sources.
3. Update and Change Your Accounts
Although you might have already opened new bank and credit accounts during the divorce process, you might still want to do some rearranging now that your divorce is final. If you shared accounts with your spouse and continued to do so throughout the divorce process, it is crucial that you open your own accounts, completely independent of your ex-spouse. Cancel or suspend any lingering joint accounts, including credit cards, and apply for new cards in your name alone.
4. Update Your Legal Documents
Once you’ve taken care of some of the more pressing matters, make sure you act quickly to reconstruct any legal documents that included your spouse. For example, if you listed your spouse as a beneficiary on your life insurance, you may wish to change that beneficiary to another family member or your children. You should also consider changing your estate planning documents. If you previously named your spouse as legal power of attorney, for instance, your ex-spouse might be given power of attorney over your healthcare and/or financial decision-making if you became incapacitated or somehow unable to make your own decisions.
Additionally, your will might change now that you’re divorced. If something were to happen to you, you might not want your assets to go to your spouse. Work with your estate planning attorney to make any necessary changes to your will, power of attorney, trusts, or other important documents.
5. Create a Financial Plan
Now that you have become financially independent from your spouse, you should create a plan to provide for your future. Look at your income, savings accounts, expenses, debts, properties, and your credit score. Your divorce may have hurt your credit score, so make sure you review your credit report now that the divorce is final and, if necessary, make plans to improve your credit and work up to a higher score so that you can benefit from lower interest rates and other opportunities later on down the road. Also, make sure you have a plan for your current expenses. Whether you’re now responsible for a mortgage alone or rent, you need to make sure you’re prepared to live according to your new financial situation. If you have children, plan ahead for any upcoming expenses for them, including school, clothing, toys, and extracurricular activities.
You may not be able to enjoy the same lifestyle as before, so be conscious of your new financial situation by monitoring spending habits and creating stable savings. Having a reliable safety net can make you feel much more empowered as you move forward after your divorce.
If you need help with your divorce case, contact McKinley Irvin in our Oregon office.