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What steps should I take after my divorce is final?

by | May 21, 2015

The following is a checklist of items that should be completed after the divorce is final. This checklist is by no means a complete list but provides you with a guideline of information.  Review these items and implement those that are relevant to your divorce:

  1. Record any quitclaim deeds. Make sure that the deeds are signed by both parties and notarized or properly authenticated. Check the legal description to make sure it is accurate.
  2. If there is a division of a pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan, have drafted a qualified domestic relations order signed by the judge in your case, certified and properly approved by the plan administrator. A QDRO is generally drafted by an attorney or a specialist in that area.
  3. If you are receiving a transfer of funds from an account that does not require a QDRO, open a suitable account to which the funds can be transferred and take all necessary steps to allow the transfer. Talk to your financial advisor.
  4. Change title to cars, boats, RVs, or other vehicles by properly executing title documents. Be sure to address not only title, but all registration and license plates.
  5. Open new checking and savings accounts in your individual name, if you haven’t already done so. Cancel any joint accounts, and make sure there are not any outstanding checks or debit cards remaining.
  6. Cancel any joint credit cards, cell phone accounts, and debit cards, and open new accounts in your individual name. Use these new credit cards at least occasionally, in order to establish credit in your individual name.
  7. If you have any automatic withdrawals or charges to joint accounts, make sure you contact the appropriate account holder prior to closing the account. Start automatic withdrawals in your new account, if applicable.
  8. Transfer utilities into your name, as applicable. If you are vacating the residence, make sure your name is removed from bills attached to the residence such as utilities and cable.
  9. Consider changing the beneficiaries on your life insurance, retirement, and other financial accounts.
  10. If you are undergoing a name change, get certified copies of the judgment of divorce to change your name on your driver’s license, title, passport, Social Security card, and other documents.
  11. Put your divorce paperwork in a safe place. Generally, if any future modifications are made to your judgment of divorce, those changes must be based on a substantial change of circumstances. You will need your divorce documents to identify issues and to evaluate whether a change of circumstances has occurred.
  12. If you are receiving child support, check with the child-support agency to verify that it has the necessary documents, such as an interim disbursement order, to start the child-support process. If you are making or receiving payments through the Wisconsin Support  Collections Trust Fund (WI SCTF), you must notify them of any address or employment changes in the future. WI SCTF’s address is P.O. Box 74200, Milwaukee,  WI 53274-0200.
  13. Make sure all your personal property has been distributed according to the judgment of divorce. Make necessary arrangements to transfer the property as soon as possible.
  14. Review all health, home, auto, life, and umbrella insurance policies and make sure the terms and identification is correct on each policy. If life and health insurance is required as a part of your judgment of divorce, periodically request verification of the existence of any insurance policies required to be carried under the terms of any judgment of divorce. In the event of the death of your ex-spouse, immediately notify the life insurance carrier of the existence of any insurance policy in which you or your children have an interest.
  15. If you are paying or receiving maintenance, identify if your tax withholding should be changed. Go to the IRS withholding calculator  to determine your appropriate withholding. Remember that maintenance payments are taxable to the recipient and deductible to the payor. The recipient will need to budget money for the payment of federal and state income taxes. Quarterly estimated tax payments may be required.
  16. You will want to prepare a new will, power of attorney for health care, general durable power of attorney, living will, trust, and/or guardianship documents. What was legal and binding during your marriage may not be legal and binding after divorce.
  17. Update your mailing address, if applicable, with the post office, credit card companies, banks, DMV, and insurance companies.
  18. Close joint safe deposit or post office boxes and open new ones, if applicable.
  19. Obtain a certified copy of your judgment of divorce for future reference.
  20. Obtain a copy of your credit report. Check it for accuracy and updating.
  21. Verify your health insurance coverage if you are obtaining COBRA benefits from your spouse’s employer.
  22. Keep records of payments of maintenance, child support, and variable expenses. If you are the payor, do not pay in cash. Use a check or money order.
  23. You may need your spouse to sign IRS Form 8332 relative to income tax exemptions. Make sure you have the form available for signature.
  24. Update your children’s schools and medical and dental professionals with contact information of both you and your former spouse, emergency contacts, and school pick-up/drop-off instructions.
  25. Keep a copy of your original marriage license if you were married for over ten years. If you were married over ten years and remain unmarried, you will be entitled to a portion of your former spouse’s Social Security.
  26. You will be required to submit a copy of your marriage license, as well as a copy of the judgment of divorce, to the Social Security Administration.
  27. Notify your employer of your change in marital status. It may be necessary to change beneficiaries on employment
    documents. Review your tax claim information with your employer. Provide updated emergency contact information.
  28. Notify the Internal Revenue Service and Wisconsin Department of Revenue of any address change during the year of the divorce or the year following the date of divorce.
  29. If your judgment of divorce assigns any outstanding tax liability to your former spouse, include a copy of the relevant section of your judgment when filing your income tax returns.

This checklist is in no way comprehensive and is not applicable to all divorces. Contact your attorney to verify what steps you should take now that your divorce is final.  For more information, feel free to contact Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel 1-800-805-1976.


Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

The outstanding legal team of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. provides each client with top-quality legal representation. The firm is known throughout Wisconsin for its careful and thorough legal work.

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