You’re Divorced. Now What?
Chances are, your attorney has sent you your Judgment of Divorce, Matrimonial Settlement Agreement, and a list of post-judgment items which need your immediate attention, such as transferring deeds to real estate or distributing retirement accounts.
Unfortunately, even after you take care of all of the typical post-judgment items from your divorce, you still may be forgetting some things that require urgent attention. While it may not be to your immediate detriment, there may be significant issues for you (or your heirs) if these items are not addressed in a timely fashion.
Change your beneficiaries.
All of those retirement accounts that you fought over during the divorce? Or the ones you didn’t fight over and got to keep free and clear because they were premarital? Make sure to contact your Human Resources department or your Plan Administrator to update your beneficiaries. Don’t forget about your life and disability insurance, both private policies and ones held through your employer, or bank accounts (CDs, etc.) that are payable upon death. It’s critical that you remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary to these items (other than to the extent you may be required to keep him or her as beneficiary to secure an alimony obligation) because these items pass outside of probate. In other words, their disposition is not controlled by your will, so there may be no way for your intended heirs to receive their fair share of these assets upon your untimely demise. Speaking of wills . . .
Re-draft your will.
If you have one, that is. If you don’t have one, perhaps now is the time to get one drafted. You want to make sure that the equitable distribution that you and your attorney fought so hard to keep stays in your family, and doesn’t get distributed to an ex-spouse due to your failure to update your paperwork.
Whether it means changing your locks, access codes to your garage door, or passwords to your e-mail, or other online accounts, or something else entirely – make this a priority! It’s easy to forget about these items, especially if you are remaining in the former marital home and you and your ex-spouse are on good terms. It may seem silly to change the locks when you’re sure your ex-spouse would never violate your privacy by using his or her old key to enter the premises, or to change all of your online banking and credit card passwords when you’ve finally gotten them all memorized. But the last thing you need is for things to head south and to find out that your ex-spouse has been tracking your expenses or reading your private e-mails because you were too trusting to change your passwords and accounts in the first place.
If you asked for a name change, change your name.
No one can force you to change your name. But if you asked for it at the time of your divorce, then most likely your request was granted. While it’s certainly easier going back to a maiden name at the time of a divorce (as opposed to filing a separate action for a name change) there’s more than just having the Judge sign your divorce decree. There are still many records to be revised/updated (with your employer, retirement accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, etc.), Social Security cards and passports to be reissued, and various other documentation which needs updating. My friend and colleague has written a on this very issue which provides a helpful roadmap for how to take care of all of these items once you have your Judgment of Divorce granting your name change.
Other issues may arise post-judgment as you’re navigating the above. The family law attorneys at Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, LLP are experienced and compassionate litigators who can help you navigate any issues that you may have relating to your completed divorce. We also have attorneys who can assist you in the drafting of wills or establishing trusts or estates. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at or at 732-545-4717 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation.