Getting that final divorce decree in your hands can feel like a major blessing and a huge relief after months of struggling to come to an agreement with your spouse over the division of the marital debts and assets, support, custody, and other issues.
But you don't have time to celebrate just yet. There are a few steps you still need to take before you can finally put your marriage behind you and move on with your life.
1. Make sure the decree is recorded.
Different jurisdictions handle this step in different ways, but many put the responsibility for making certain that the decree is recorded by the court clerk on the divorced couple or their attorneys. If that's the case, take the time to hand-deliver a certified copy of your decree to the court clerk.
2. Change your name, if that's applicable to your situation.
If you asked the judge to restore your name to what it was prior to your marriage, you need to make sure that you change your Social Security record, your driver's license, bank account information, insurance records, credit cards, and more. (The amount of hassle involved is why some people opt to keep their married names after divorce.) Get plenty of certified copies of your divorce decree so that you can use them as needed.
If you didn't ask the judge to include a name change in your divorce decree, you'll need to file a petition with the probate court to legally change your name. While it's an extra step, it's generally inexpensive and easy to accomplish with the help of your family lawyer.
3. Get the retirement accounts split up.
If retirement accounts were part of the marital property that needed to be divided, you need a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) in order for the custodian of those retirement accounts to act on the orders of the court. A QDRO has to be prepared by your family lawyer independently of your divorce decree and submitted within a certain period of time after the divorce in order to be honored, so don't delay.
4. Do a little estate planning.
Change the beneficiaries on your insurance policies, bank accounts, and other financial documents. Make sure that you also update your will with your attorney's help. This is a step too many people overlook after their divorce, and that can be hugely hurtful to their intended heirs down the line.
It sounds like a lot, but you'll be through these steps in no time — and then you can celebrate your divorce! Contact a law firm like Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. for more information.