You’ve attended all of the attorney meetings, mediation, and the divorce hearing. You’ve signed stacks of paperwork and filled out electronic forms. Finally, your divorce decree is in hand and you’re ready to start fresh. But now that the deadlines have come and gone and your legal calendar is clear, is all of the work required to start your new life finished?
The answer is… not yet. After you take a few days to breathe and let the ink dry on your divorce papers, it’s time to finish up a few nagging details before you start on your new path. Making a post-divorce checklist can help you celebrate freedom more completely once you’ve checked off the last few post-divorce tasks.
Get a Paper Copy of Your Divorce Decree
First, be sure to obtain a paper copy of the entire judgment from your divorce and read it carefully. Before you can begin to put the experience behind you, it’s important to know exactly what’s expected of you going forward in matters such as the following:
- Child custody and parenting time schedule
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Transfer of property or ownership
It’s critical to understand the rights and obligations spelled out in the divorce judgment so you can fulfill your obligations. You’ll also need a copy of the decree as proof of your marriage dissolution in order to change your name, remarry, or get a new driver’s license or passport.
Create New Accounts and Change Passwords
Once the divorce judgment divides your marital assets, it’s important to remove your ex-spouse’s name from all accounts. Be sure to close out joint bank accounts and open new ones in your name alone. Remove your spouse from other accounts and change the passwords on accounts such as:
- Bank, retirement, and investment accounts distributed to you in the divorce
- Credit cards
- Streaming services
- Online shopping accounts
Transfer Deeds and Titles in Accordance With the Divorce Settlement or Judgment
Once you have your new, separate accounts, be sure to promptly take care of transferring any titles or deeds to your name alone if the asset was distributed to you in the settlement, or to your spouse if the asset was distributed to them.
Change Your Last Name
For divorced spouses who wish to revert back to their previous name or take a new last name, this request is often included in the divorce judgment, but remember to check that the change is official. Typically, you’ll receive a new Social Security card with the requested name change. Your Social Security number remains the same. Then you can head to the DMV to change the name on your driver’s license. You’ll need to bring a copy of your divorce decree.
Once your name change is official, be sure to update it on all of your accounts, including bank accounts, your child’s school, and your utilities and streaming services.
Update Your Will and Insurance Policies
After your divorce, you’ll need to update your will and life insurance policy to name new beneficiaries. Under California law, if you die before you change your will, the state revokes your ex-spouse’s right to the inheritance, but it’s essential to clarify your wishes for new beneficiaries, or the state defaults to official inheritance laws for those without valid estate plans.
Talk to a Tax Specialist
Before you file a tax return, speak to an accountant or tax specialist about how to file. This can become complicated in a year in which you were married for part of the year, and single for the remainder.
Develop a New Budget
Many newly divorced spouses face significant changes in their financial circumstances. Be sure to carefully budget your living expenses to reflect any necessary changes.
Once you’ve cleaned up the last post-divorce details, it’s time to move forward and begin your new life’s journey.