A 12 Step Checklist of Post-Divorce Considerations

Your divorce has just been finalized. Now what?  Depending on the assets divided, there may be a number of steps that you have to take to implement the terms of your divorce.  While your attorney likely provided some guidance upon completion of the divorce, here are 12 steps to consider.

  1. Automobile and Homeowner Insurance

Automobile and homeowner insurance must be obtained, or transferred into your name for all vehicles and homes that you are keeping.

  1. Health Insurance

If you were on your spouse’s health insurance you will need to obtain your own health insurance after the divorce is final. If COBRA is available you may wish to exercise the ability to stay on your spouse’s insurance through their employer. However, while notice is supposed to be given of this right, failure of receipt of the notice does not extend your right to elect COBRA coverage. You need to be proactive in determining coverage and making an election.  It may be beneficial to understand what coverage is available and the related premium cost prior to entry of the final decree to determine availability of health insurance, costs, and whether other considerations must be included in the decree to protect the insured.

  1. Life Insurance

Determine availability and need. If not required to be maintained by your decree, determine if you need to make a change in beneficiaries.

  1. Asset Investment

Work with a financial planner to determine the goals and best way to invest assets divided in the divorce.  The asset directives that were previously in place may not be the best investment decision currently.

  1. Refinancing Mortgage

If one party is staying in the marital home and must refinance in order to remove the other party from the mortgage, ensure that there is sufficient time to accomplish the refinancing.  If one party quitclaims the property to the party remaining in the residence, the other party will still be liable if a payment is missed.  Consider not transferring title until the refinancing occurs.

  1. Preparation of QDRO’s

Ensure the Qualified Domestic Relationship Orders are done promptly in order to avoid a situation where one party takes loans against their 401(k) or otherwise encumbers the assets so they are not available for equitable division.  In addition, the payee may pass before completion leaving an asset then undivided.

  1. Keeping Address Up to Date

The Court must be informed of your current address or change in address in order to ensure notices are received and to have a current address on file for payment of support.

  1. Tax Considerations

Work with an accountant or CPA to determine tax ramifications concerning division of certain assets.

  1. Closing Joint Financial Accounts and Credit Cards

Financial accounts should have the other spouse’s name removed.  Joint credit cards should be closed and transferred into individual names.

  1. Change Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries for insurance policies and retirement accounts should be changed as appropriate.

  1. Estate Planning

Amend estate plan given the new division of assets.

  1. Renewal of judgments

If you are owed money from your spouse as part of the equalization payment for a division of assets, be sure to renew your judgment in accordance with the laws of your state.  In Arizona for example, you must renew your judgement every 10 years. Otherwise, you may lose the right to collect on the judgment for non-payment.

About the Author:

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office and co-chair of the firm’s Family Law Practice. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081.