Divorce in New Jersey can be a challenging experience on multiple levels, from negotiating or litigating a solution to dealing with the emotional fallout. However, there are also important practical steps for you to take after your divorce in order to prepare for the future. These are some of the more widely relevant and important actions for you to consider after the divorce is final.
Preparing for Your Future
When you began the divorce process, you made sure to have all of your documents in order. Your divorce lawyer needed tax documents, account information, and other details to negotiate a settlement or litigate the case successfully. Now that the divorce is over, the documents will also be important to you. Make sure that you have a copy of your divorce decree and any associated settlement agreements as these will contain many of the important practical details.
Your family law attorney can help you to understand the document if you need more information about any of the terms in the divorce decree. What you can do for yourself is summarize the document and make a list of all of the things that need to be done to put the agreements that you reached into practice.
Dealing With Real Estate and the Family Home
This is often one of the more complex and costly parts of the divorce process. The details will depend on how your home was divided during the settlement or as part of the order from the court. If both parties agreed to sell the home and divide the proceeds, you will need to move forward with hiring a real estate agent and listing the home.
If one spouse is keeping the home, the other spouse will need to convey their interest to the remaining spouse. They can use a quitclaim deed or an interspousal transfer deed, and your family law attorney can advise you about the best options to complete the transfer. Once this transfer is completed, the remaining spouse will have sole ownership of the home.
However, it may be best to wait to make this transfer until outstanding issues with the mortgage are resolved. In most cases, the spouse remaining in the home will need to refinance the mortgage or remove the other spouse’s name from the loan documents. It is important to act quickly following the divorce to resolve any matters based on mortgage refinancing. The deed to transfer title can be filed simultaneously with the implementation of the mortgage refinance so that one spouse is not left with responsibility for the home debt without any level of ownership of the home. Your family law attorney may also work with a real estate agent to make sure these tasks are completed.
Managing Cars, Boats, and Titled Property
Some personal property simply needs to be divided up. However, cars, boats, and other large items are often titled, and in those cases, you may need to record a transfer of title based on your divorce asset division. If the car is in one or both spouses’ names, but it will be going to the other person after the settlement, the title will need to be changed and filed separately.
Getting Ready for Co-Parenting
Your divorce decree will contain the details of your agreement about child support and child custody. However, beyond the agreements about shared time and decision-making, you and your former spouse will also need to communicate regularly about the children and their needs, from medical care to school activities to the specific time when you will meet up for a parenting time exchange.
If you and your former spouse can communicate positively and well, just talking over the phone, texts, apps, and shared calendar documents, like a Google calendar, can manage most concerns about co-parenting and scheduling. Both of you should have a common understanding of how you will handle these concerns.
Some people with a more contentious relationship with a former spouse may want a more formalized and distant process, and electronic solutions can help here. An app like Our Family Wizard is terrific, and designed for structured communication and shared scheduling that leaves a clear record of communications between both parties. It is designed for co-parenting communication that creates a documented record in case future disputes arise, and your divorce lawyer may have additional suggestions about how to best move forward with co-parenting communication.
Handling Bank Accounts, Retirement Plans, and Credit Cards
In the divorce settlement, you will have decided how to divide the contents of your bank accounts or pay off outstanding debts. However, the banks involved will need to be informed as they are not parties to the divorce settlement. After the divorce, both parties should close any joint accounts or reopen them as individual accounts, remove former spouses as authorized users on cards opened individually, and ensure that all of the debts will be handled as agreed in the divorce.
The same procedure is true for bank accounts. After dividing the money in the account as specified in the divorce settlement, you and your former spouse should close your joint accounts and open new, individual checking and savings accounts. This is also the case for any joint investment accounts, brokerage accounts, and other funds you hold together. Before handling this step, you can talk with your divorce attorney about any tax or other concerns with making the division; in most cases, the firms involved may need a copy of the divorce decree.
Dividing your retirement plans may have been a major part of your divorce settlement. If so, you may need to obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which enables your 401(k), 403(b), or pension plan to be properly divided. Your divorce attorney may advise you about when a QDRO is needed; this type of court order will need to be submitted for approval and then filed with the court.
IRAs are different although there still may be tax concerns to keep in mind. You can consult with your family lawyer and accountant about how to handle the distribution of your IRA in a way that best protects both you and your former spouse. Your family law attorney may also recommend that you work with a financial advisor to best protect and plan for your financial future.
Changing Your Last Name
People come to different conclusions about how to handle their names after a divorce. You might include a name change in the New Jersey divorce decree or work with your family lawyer for a separate court order changing your name. In other cases, you may keep the name you used during your marriage.
However, changing your name in court does not complete the process; you will need to change your name separately with government and private institutions that use your current name. The Social Security Administration is the most urgent point for your name change, and then, you can work to change your driver’s license, update your passport and deal with banks, insurance companies, and credit card issuers. You may want to work with an app or service to deal with as much of the name change paperwork as possible.
Updating Your Passwords
So much of your life is lived online, and passwords are the key to all of it. Whether you have a contentious relationship with your former spouse or a great one, it is important to change your passwords after the divorce. Once your accounts have been divided at the bank, brokerage, or credit card issuer, change your online financial passwords for your new individual accounts. Change your passwords for email, social media, subscription services, and any of the myriad apps and online services that you use.
These are only some of the first steps to keep in mind after your divorce. You will also need to deal with health insurance, changing insurance beneficiaries, and updating your wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. While the aftermath of a divorce can involve a significant amount of paperwork, these are the first steps toward building your new successful post divorce life.
Planning for the future can raise many questions, and the experienced family law attorneys at Lawrence Law can help you negotiate a fair settlement that protects your interests. Contact Jeralyn Lawrence at Lawrence Law’s Red Bank or Watchung, New Jersey, locations at (908) 645-1000, or use our convenient online form to request a consultation.