Steps to Take After Divorce is Final

Rear view of couple sitting on bench. Visual concept for legal blog: Do you what to do after your divorce is final?

The legal process to obtain a divorce can be a long road — even if both spouses agree on all the issues that must be decided to end a marriage. Once your divorce has been finalized, you might breathe a sigh of relief. However, after the divorce decree has been issued and your court case has been closed, there are still some steps to take when a divorce is final.

Here are some crucial steps to take upon the finalization of your divorce:

1. Understand When Your Divorce is Finalized

Many people are unclear about when a divorce is actually finalized. Whether you use mediation, the collaborative process, or litigation to end your marriage, there are specific legal procedures that must be carried out before a divorce can be finalized — and certain issues must be decided before a couple can divorce. These include those related to property division, debt allocation, child custody, child support, life insurance, and alimony.

Once the matters that must be decided have been determined by a settlement entered into by the spouses — or a judge decides the issues — the divorce process can be completed. However, the divorce is only finalized once the court issues the divorce decree.

2. Look at Your Divorce Decree

The divorce decree is the document that legally ends your marriage. It will also include requirements regarding the steps you must take once your court case has concluded. It’s important to read the language in the decree carefully and create a checklist for the things you need to do.

Your divorce decree may specify how your property should be divided, what happens to the marital home, and how child support and alimony are paid. The divorce decree may also outline the steps you need to take related to name changes, insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. In addition, the decree might address enforcement for post-divorce issues and the consequences for failing to comply.

3. Follow Through with Court Orders

Just because your divorce is final doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else that needs to be done. Be sure to understand the court orders that have been included in your divorce decree. This can include things like keeping your scheduled visitation times with your children, paying support when it is due, and selling the marital home. If you do not comply with a court order, your spouse could file a motion and you could be held in contempt — or face other sanctions.

4. Make Any Necessary Changes to Your Health Insurance Plan

Once a divorce is finalized, neither spouse can remain on the other’s health insurance policy. This means that if you were covered under your spouse’s health insurance plan, you will need to obtain your own policy and pay your own premium upon the conclusion of your divorce. You might also need to make changes if your children will be on a different policy other than the one they were covered by during your marriage. The divorce decree should specify which health insurance plan the children will be included on.

5. Open New Bank Accounts in Your Name

Often, married couples open joint checking or savings accounts. One of the most important things to do after your divorce is final is to open new bank accounts in your name — and close any existing joint accounts or credit cards you shared with your spouse. In addition, make sure to change any beneficiary designations on your accounts if your former spouse was named.

6. Handle Real Estate Issues

If you and your spouse owned property together, it would need to be divided in divorce. You may be required to sell the property, transfer it to your spouse, or refinance the mortgage to remove your spouse’s name — depending upon what your divorce decree specifies. Dealing with real estate matters are some of the most complex tasks that must be undertaken after a divorce has been finalized. It may require working with a real estate agent and your former spouse to achieve the best outcome.

7. Change Your Name

Upon marriage, you may have taken your spouse’s last name. When your divorce is final, you can change your name back to your maiden name if you wish. There should be a clause in your divorce decree that specifies you may legally restore your previous name. However, you must still take the steps necessary to change your name with the Social Security Administration, banks, healthcare providers, lenders, your employment, the voter registration office, and any other necessary organizations or entities.

8. Change Your Estate Plan

If you listed your former spouse in your estate plan, you should review it and make any alterations once your divorce is final. Although a divorce would revoke any provisions that pass property to your former spouse, failure to make the necessary changes can result in unintended beneficiaries inheriting. Similarly, if you’d like to include your ex-spouse in your estate plan, you would need to specifically address this matter by updating your will or other documents after divorce.

9. Have a Follow-up Meeting with Your Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about what to do after your divorce is final, schedule a follow-up meeting with your divorce attorney. They can help ensure you understand the terms of your divorce decree and carry out any necessary steps on your post-divorce checklist. Your attorney can also assist you with any post-divorce enforcement matters or modification issues that arise.

Contact an Experienced Utah Divorce Attorney

Going through a divorce is always hard — and a knowledgeable divorce attorney can help ensure you move forward successfully to the next chapter of your life. Based in Salt Lake City, BartonWood provides skillful counsel and compassionate representation to clients for a wide variety of divorce and family law issues. To learn more about our legal services and how we can assist you with your case, call 801-326-8300 or contact us to schedule a consultation.