It finally happened! You’ve finished the monumental task of making your divorce final. After an emotional roller coaster, you finally have that manila envelope with your divorce decree signed by the judge. You are now officially a single person again. Maybe you’re celebrating, or maybe you feel somber. Either way, you need to stay focused. The hardest part may be done, but what are the priorities after divorce? You may still have some critical items to take care of.
Look Over Your Decree
One of the top priorities after divorce is to read your decree carefully. Make sure you understand exactly what’s been awarded to you. There’s a chance that you now need to have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO prepared. The QDRO will outline how to split you and your spouse’s retirement plans. It’s important not to delay on this process. Get that going as soon as possible so that your accounts are split in a timely manner. A Certified Divorce Financial Planner can help get you going on the QDRO process. They can also help you map our your new post-divorce financial plan, open new accounts if needed, and consolidate old accounts.
Review Your Accounts
It’s important to remove your ex-spouse’s name from any existing accounts – including insurance polices, bank accounts, credit cards, and utilities. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a credit card in your name alone. It’s time to start establishing your own financial identity.
If you don’t have one you should create a filing system for your important financial documents. Tax documents, statements, and account communications should all be saved in a safe place. You can do this electronically or the old fashioned way with a paper filing system. Either way, it needs to be done.
Revisit Estate Docs
You’ll need to be sure that you update the beneficiary designations on all of your accounts and insurance policies immediately. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for ex-spouse’s to inherit large 401(k) plans on accident because someone forgot to remove them as the beneficiary after a divorce. You can imagine what a nightmare that is to untangle! Best avoid it.
Create a New Will
So much has changed. You need to make sure your new wishes are clear given all that has happened leading up to and after your divorce. If you had any trusts in place, you’ll need to terminate them and make new ones.
I remember the day I got my final decree in the mail. I felt some sadness about leaving my old life behind, but also the beginnings of excitement for the new life that was about to begin. The business aspects of a divorce aren’t fun, but with each step you’ll start to feel your new independence seeking. All of it will help you heal. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.