What’s Next after the Divorce

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A divorce may be the end of your marriage, but it is also the beginning of a new life. Before starting the next phase of your journey, there are usually loose ends to tie up after a divorce.

While major negotiations between divorce attorneys for you and your spouse may be over, there are still a few left-over items on your post-divorce to-do list. It’s important to take care of these issues immediately after your divorce so that they will not come back to hurt you in the future.

Your Post-Divorce Checklist

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To make it easier on yourself, create a checklist of things to do after your final judgment of divorce. When creating your list, make sure you consider the following items:

1. Schedule a final meeting with your attorney

Make an appointment to request paperwork from your case, ask questions, and tie up any loose ends. Try to end on a good note, because you may need your attorney’s assistance in the future if your former spouse does not abide by the divorce decree.

2. Carry out your responsibilities

If your divorce decree requires you to pay your portion of debts and loans, transfer ownership of property, or any other tasks, do them as soon as possible. Taking care of your responsibilities now is much better than doing it at a later date.

3. Organize divorce documents

Whether you place your papers in a cardboard box or a safe deposit box, it’s important to keep your documents together in case you need them in the future. You can also scan the documents and store them in the Cloud (to access from a computer) or place them on a flash drive (but don’t forget where you place the device).

4. Change your name on your accounts

If you legally changed your name after your divorce, contact the Social Security Administration to get a corrected Social Security card. Also, change your name on your driver’s license and bank accounts.

5. Change your designated beneficiaries

Some divorce decrees terminate spouses as beneficiaries of insurance policies, retirement accounts, annuities, and other financial accounts. Taking out new policies and naming new beneficiaries may take some time, but you want to make sure that you and your loved ones remain covered after a divorce.

6. Change your tax status

Going from “married” to “single” requires more than just checking a box on your tax form. Check with your tax preparer to see if you need to change any tax withholdings, and ask if you will need to pay more taxes because of your tax status. It’s best to do this now instead of getting a big hit in your wallet during next year’s tax season.

7. Open up your own credit cards

If you do not have your own credit cards, then establish credit in your name. Dividing credit card debt from a joint account is usually done during the divorce. But, if you have not yet taken care of the matter, talk to your former spouse about closing joint credit card accounts so that you will not be responsible for any post-divorce charges made by your former spouse.

8. Apply for health insurance

If you were on your former spouse’s health insurance, you will need to apply for your own health care coverage. The annual open enrollment period for health insurance begins in November. But, you can enroll outside of the annual enrollment period if you have had a major life change, called a “qualifying event.” A divorce counts as a qualifying event.

9. Write a new will

Your existing will more than likely leave your property to your former spouse. You can revoke or destroy your old will and replace it with a new one. If you did not have a will, to begin with, this is a good time to write one.

10. Follow the parenting plan

Couples with children usually create a parenting plan before the judge granting the final divorce decree. Make sure you do your part in visiting your children or paying child support and ensure the other parent does the same.

11. Keep disagreements with the other parent to a minimum

If you have children, you and your former spouse will probably have to see each other during drop off and pick up of your kids, make decisions about your kids’ education, discuss medical concerns, and other issues. So, working together as much as you possibly can alleviate a lot of frustration.

12. Watch your children closely

Divorce can wreak emotional and psychological havoc on children because some kids believe the divorce was their fault. So, it’s important to monitor your children’s overall well-being. If you see that your children are not adjusting well to the family disruption, they may benefit from seeing a therapist.

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You may need to add other items to the checklist, such as keeping contact information for divorce attorneys in case you encounter legal problems associated with your divorce decree. For instance, if your former spouse violates any part of the final judgment of divorce or any other related court order, your experienced attorney can advise you of the next steps to take to resolve the problem.

Take Time Out for Yourself

To say that divorce is stressful is an understatement. Reading your divorce decree is somewhat like reading an obituary because a major part of your life has ended.

Moving forward with your life may seem difficult, but having people to support you will go a long way to alleviating your fears of going it alone. So, avoid isolating yourself from family and friends by keeping active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The most important thing to do is make self-care a priority so that you can be there for your children, parents, and others who need your support.

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