By: Tim Theissen, Matt Worth, Jessica Beauchamp & Courtney Suhre
Once your divorce is over, it can be a great relief. Going through the process can be one of the most difficult and emotional times that a person experiences in their life. The process itself can seem like a full-time job to divorce litigants. The freedom and other emotions that you will go through when it is over are equally impactful. You will have independence to move on in your life and be your own person.
Often, people are frustrated and exhausted at the end of the process, and fail to follow up on some of the aspects of the divorce process that continue to require attention and completion so as to avoid serious problems later. Here are a few of the issues that you need to give attention to and mistakes to avoid.
- Update Your Estate Plan. Any of your estate planning documents that preceded the divorce will need to be updated. Your will may likely change to take your spouse out. You will want to amend your living will and powers of attorney to take your spouse out of those roles. Most importantly, and often forgotten, is changing the beneficiary designation on retirement accounts and life insurance policies, as well as closing joint accounts. Make a list and check them off as completed.
- Deeds and Vehicle Titles. If real estate or motor vehicles are assigned to one spouse in a divorce, the divorce decree is usually not self-executing, meaning that the title of those assets must be transferred over to the spouse to which they are awarded. If you are awarded real estate, you will need to get a deed signed by your spouse over to you. If you are awarded a motor vehicle, you will have to get the title transferred from them to you. It is best to get this done right away, before taxes or registration issues arise. Obviously, if delayed for years, more serious problems can occur. The car titles and deeds to real estate should be taken care of right away after the divorce.
- Bad Dating Decisions. Life is better if you can be in a loving and productive relationship. Some people jump into a relationship too soon; others are afraid to “get back in the water” altogether. Experience shows that some people jump into a “rebound” relationship with a person who has none of the negative qualities that their former spouse had. However, mistakes can be made because that person may lack those faults, but have other glaring faults of their own, which are shielded from recognition because of the perspective of the former spouse. There are many successful second marriages. However, the divorce rate is generally higher in second marriages than in first. The best advice is to not jump into a committed relationship too soon.
- Pay Child Support or Alimony. Sometimes payment of child support and alimony can be made directly to the other spouse, but usually it is required to be paid through a support collection agency operated by the local or state government. Following the proper process is critical to both the payor and the recipient. Nonpayment can be considered contempt of court with severe consequences. If you are supposed to pay through an agency, and choose to pay your spouse directly, that payment may be considered a gift, meaning that you might have to pay that amount twice. Make sure you are paying through the right methodology.
- Follow the Court Order. Once the divorce decree is entered, it is wise to create a checklist of “to do” items and cross them off as you complete them. Each and every paragraph of the decree should be reviewed for any items of follow-up that need to be accomplished. The items can related to payments that need to be made, items relating to children, paying of debts or expenses, transferring of assets, and the like. These items cannot be ignored just because the divorce is over.
- Take Care of Your Personal Business. In many marriages, one spouse takes over primary responsibility for managing the finances and paying the bills. After the divorce, a spouse who is not accustomed to doing the finances will have to begin paying their own bills and managing their own investments. For that spouse, there are many pitfalls during the process of learning all of the details that have to be attended to. Sometimes that spouse may need to seek professional help in the beginning in helping to set all of that up.
If you are you interested in speaking with an attorney regarding a divorce or separation, Strauss Troy’s Domestic Relations team is here to advise you. Our team can handle all aspects of divorce and dissolution, including complex divorce and custody cases, mediation and collaborative divorce.