While a final divorce order may feel like the official end of the divorce, parties may need to complete additional tasks soon after the divorce order is issued and consider the effects of their divorce on their rights and responsibilities long afterwards.
Immediately after a divorce is finalized, parties should ensure that all loose ends are tied. First, parties should review their final divorce order for mistakes. A simple typo that has no effect can probably be left alone, but a provision that was not accurately written or was left out entirely should be addressed. This may be as simple as asking the court to revise the document, but the process with the court may be more involved if the revision is substantial or the parties cannot agree.
Things to Do After Divorce
Obtain (mistake-free) certified copies of the divorce order
Once the order is mistake-free, both parties should acquire certified copies. These will be useful to notify other entities of the divorce, such as an ex-spouse’s employer to secure COBRA coverage or a bank to change the name on an account. A copy of the divorce order may also be useful if divorced spouses need to transfer property and revise deeds, such as the deed to a house or the title to a car. Parties should also complete any other directives in their divorce order, such as updating the beneficiaries of an insurance policy or retirement account and getting any QDRO to the plan administrator. An ex-spouse who changes their name or their child’s name should correct those names on all official documents. Finally, both parties should review and revise any estate planning documents.
Modification of Final Divorce Judgments and Alimony
An ex-spouse may seek to modify final divorce orders, including spousal or child support orders, especially if circumstances have changed since the divorce. The likelihood of achieving a modification depends on the type of modification that the ex-spouse pursues, the significance of the circumstances that have changed, and state law. However, the easiest way to modify any divorce order is for both ex-spouses to agree. If ex-spouses cannot agree, an ex-spouse may be able to persuade the court to change the order. For example, a court may approve a temporary reduction in alimony for a paying ex-spouse who loses their job. Modification of spousal or child support orders may be more likely than modification of an asset division order.
Relocating With Children
Divorced spouses without shared children are likely free to relocate wherever they choose, but divorced spouses relocating with shared children may need to consider their child custody and visitation agreements.
Name Changes After Divorce
It is possible to include a name change in a final divorce order, but parties who decide to change their name or their child’s name after a divorce may change their name through the courts (or another method prescribed by state law). Once an individual receives the final name change order, they may use a copy of that order to change their name on all other documents, such as a passport or their driver’s license.
Estate Planning After Divorce
After a divorce, individuals will likely need to update their estate planning documents. While most states will automatically disinherit an ex-spouse if an individual dies after divorce without updating their will, the assets may nevertheless go to an unintended beneficiary. The best way to make sure that an individual’s assets will go to their intended beneficiaries is to revise the applicable estate planning documents. Even if an individual still intends for their ex-spouse to inherit under their will, they should revise the document to state that their intentions remain the same after divorce. Divorced spouses may also want to ensure that their ex-spouse has updated their own estate planning documents, such as if the ex-spouse agreed to insure their alimony and child support payments with an insurance policy.
Social Security Benefits After Divorce
Ex-spouses may continue to be eligible for Social Security benefits under their ex-spouse’s work record, even after divorce. To be eligible for these benefits, the marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years. However, remarriage may affect eligibility.
Individuals who remarry will need to consider how their second marriage will affect their rights and responsibilities under their divorce order. For instance, remarriage is unlikely to affect child support obligations, but it may affect spousal support. Remarriage may also cause parties to reconsider parenting plans and asset protection.