The entry of a Final Order of Divorce can indicate the end of a stressful process. While you should certainly take some time to relax and soak in your new normal, you should also be aware of any ongoing obligations, as well as any important steps you may still need to take. Utilizing a post-divorce checklist, like the one below, may be helpful.
- First and foremost, if you and your former spouse entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement, reread it carefully. An agreement of this kind is incorporated into your Final Order of Divorce. The agreement should outline your obligations and the timeframes in which to have each obligation satisfied. It’s best to go through the agreement, line by line, to make sure you know when you and your former spouse need to have certain tasks done.
- It’s important to sit down and reassess your budget. It’s likely that you have been sharing income and/or expenses with another person for a while. In your post-divorce life, you’ll want to reconsider your approach.
- Make sure any utilities you are responsible for are under your name.
- Remove your former spouse as an authorized user from accounts that your agreement confirms are now in your sole possession. Close any remaining joint credit card accounts. Consider running a credit report to confirm that all necessary accounts have been closed.
- Keep a record of all spousal support payments paid or received. This could come in handy later if payments are in dispute.
- Ensure that you have your own auto insurance.
- If you and your former spouse decided who would claim the child tax exemption(s), one of you may need to fill out IRS Form 8332. This form allows you to release your claim to an exemption, or if you released your claim in the past, you can also revoke your release.
- Update your emergency contact with your insurance, your employer, in your phone, and anywhere else you may have one designated.
- Make sure you are medically insured. Depending on your agreement and/or Final Order of Divorce, you may still be covered through your former spouse’s health insurance, or you may need to obtain your own if you haven’t already.
- Ensure that any medical directives are updated.
- Pursuant to Virginia Code §20-124.5, make sure you give 30 days’ advance written notice to the court and to your former spouse of any intent to relocate.
- Keep a record of all child support payments paid or received.
- Keep a record of your children’s medical costs, including unreimbursed medical, dental and vision costs and copays, if relevant to your agreement.
- If it wasn’t already in your agreement, determine with whom your children’s passports, birth certificates and other important documentation will remain.
- Consider creating a shared calendar with your co-parent that includes the custodial schedule, important school dates, and the children’s extracurricular activities and appointments.
- If needed, update the children’s school or daycare regarding any changes to emergency contact information, drop-off or pick-up plans, etc.
- Make sure to change the title of any non-liquid assets, such as cars and houses, in accordance with the agreement.
- If you and your former spouse agreed to divide retirement plans (pensions, 401(k)s, etc.), then you need to make sure that the appropriate Qualified Domestic Relations Orders have been prepared. These orders are filed with the court for entry and submitted to the retirement plan administrator. They tell the retirement plan administrator what funds need to be distributed and how, and allow the distribution to be a tax- and penalty-free event. These orders tend to require very specific language and can be rejected for minor errors. A family law attorney can help you with this critical step.
- Be sure to update any existing wills and trust documents. Consider discussing this step with an estate planning attorney.
- If you opted to change your name, update your driver’s license, passport, and social security card.
- Inform your financial institutions, insurers, employers, etc. of your name change.
- Update your social media to reflect the change.
A family law attorney can ensure that many of these matters are addressed in your Marital Settlement Agreement, so that no major negotiations need to occur after you’re divorced. In addition, a family lawyer can help you navigate post-divorce issues such as preparing a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or helping you file an enforcement action against your former spouse if they have not satisfied their obligations. Livesay & Myers, P.C. has a team of experienced family lawyers across offices in Fairfax, Arlington, Leesburg-Ashburn, Manassas and Fredericksburg-Stafford, representing clients throughout Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.