Post-Divorce Guide: 5 Things To Do Once Your Divorce Is Final

You’ve finished mediation, both you and your now ex-spouse signed the Agreement, and your judgment was filed and signed by the judge. You might be thinking, ok, great, my divorce is final, and I’m all done, but many essential things may still need to happen after your divorce is final. Some of these aren’t done promptly, which can have repercussions later. You may need a post-divorce guide to help you complete all the practical transitions. 

We send all of our clients whose divorce is final a Post-Divorce Checklist to remind them all of the items they need to complete, but we also know that many people get their envelopes or our emails and don’t read them.

You don’t want to be one of those who still have hanging issues from their divorce years ago. Luckily, we are here to help!

1. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)

If you and your ex-spouse are dividing any qualified retirement accounts (such as a 401k or a pension plan), your Agreement should state that you need to hire a QDRO expert to draft that additional document for you. Without the QDRO, you will not be able to divide the retirement accounts pursuant to a divorce and can encounter taxes and penalties. This is the item that is the MOST important to do, and I can’t tell you how many times people don’t do so it’s super important to make sure that you get your QDRO done in a timely fashion.

We have had numerous couples call us who were divorced 2, 5, or even 15 years ago and never completed their QDROs after their divorce. I had a team with whom I was mediating his second divorce; he hadn’t done the QDROs required from his first divorce over 15 years prior!

Your retirement assets are super important, and you want to ensure that you get what you’re supposed to, whether you’re receiving the funds now from a 401k or if you’re going to be receiving a portion of your ex-spouse’s pension benefits when they retire. Without a QDRO, you may not receive what you’re supposed to. While we no longer handle the QDROs in-house, we have excellent referrals we can provide for attorneys who handle them – part of being a great post-divorce guide is having access to a network of pros who can also help.

2. Divide Any Non-Qualified Accounts

While they don’t require a QDRO to divide, you’ll also want to ensure you divide any non-qualified accounts (both retirement and non-retirement accounts). These include your IRAs, Brokerage accounts, money market accounts, and bank accounts, to name a few.

While these accounts don’t need additional documentation to divide and close them, some financial institutions may want to see your Agreement detailing how they should be divided into many instances.

Additionally, if an account is joint in both spouses’ names, you will need to work with the financial institution to divide those funds and close or transfer the account(s). The sooner you get these done, the easier and cleaner it will be for each of you to manage your funds moving forward.

3. Set Up Support Payments

If your Agreement requires you to pay child and/or spousal support, you’ll want to ensure that you correctly set up your support payments to your ex-spouse as you both agreed.

If you’ve agreed on a direct bank transfer, it can be easy to set those up as reoccurring transfers that happen on a specific date because you don’t have to worry about forgetting to make a payment. Late or unpaid support payments can carry late fees with them if your spouse were to take you to court, so you want to make sure that you pay what you’re supposed to on time every month.

Additionally, suppose you forget too often to make payments. In that case, your ex-spouse may request an income withholding order, allowing your ex-spouse to receive their payments directly from your paycheck each month before receiving the funds.

4. Return Any Credit Cards

A good post-divorce guide will always advise you to turn over old credit and debit cards to the account owner. This is important to ensure that nobody uses the wrong card and racks up debt on someone else’s credit. Also important is to return any credit cards that you may have of the other’s, and make sure that your ex-spouse has returned any cards they had of yours.

You’ll also want to make sure you’ve closed any joint accounts that you’re not able to transfer into one person’s name. It can be helpful to run a credit report about six months after your divorce is final to ensure that you haven’t missed a joint liability.

5. Take Time for Yourself

While most of the things I’ve discussed here are practical items that need to be completed once your divorce is final, it’s also important to consider what you want moving forward. It can be hard to re-discover yourself after your divorce when your roles have changed so much.

There is nothing wrong with seeking out additional help when you need it to get through this time, and as I always tell my clients, to have your life better, not worse off, after your divorce is final.

Mediators: Your Post-Divorce Guides

As experienced California family mediators, we have experience with all stages of divorce mediation, including acting as a neutral post-divorce guide in many unique situations.

Have questions about your divorce? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 today to set up a free and confidential consult!

by: Amanda Singer

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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