Navigating through the divorce process can be challenging. We’ve put together advice and tips to help walk you through the “business side” of ending a marriage. (If you’re just starting to talk about it, you might want to review the information in our GET PREPARED section to make you aware of all that is involved.)
- Division and transfer of assets
Meet with your attorney and/or financial planner and discuss the division of assets and how assets will be transferred to or from you.
- Additional copies
Order additional copies of your divorce decree or the dissolution of marriage papers. (Here’s a list of vital records by state.)
- Changing your name?
Name change laws may vary by state. Ask your lawyer about name changing procedures and what to do in your state. More on name changes in After the Wedding or Divorce: 19 Places to Change Your Name.
- Changing legal documents
You may wish to make beneficiary and/or name changes to the following documents (your financial planner and attorney may be able to direct you on how to make these changes):
- 401k, pension funds, retirement accounts
- Automobile titles
- Brokerage statements
- House deeds
- Insurance policies (home, auto, life, health, disability)
- Joint bank accounts
- Joint credit cards
- Loans and mortgages
- Power of attorney – financial and medical
- Safe deposit boxes
- Social Security
- Tax returns (read IRS Tips for Newly Divorced Individuals)
- Wills and trusts
WHN Expert TIP – Estate Planning: “In order to change your will and beneficiaries, you may need to meet with your estate lawyer. You may also need to contact your life insurance agent to change the beneficiaries of your policy as well.” Lili Vasileff, Certified Financial Planner practitioner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ and Registered Investment Advisor
WHN Expert TIP – Mortgages: “You may have changed the name(s) on the title of your house but the name(s) might also be on the mortgage. Meet with a mortgage banker to make this change as well as refinance your mortgage.” Fadi Barahidi, The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts
WHN Reader TIP – Mortgages & Your Current Lender: “Putting the mortgage into just your name? Talk to your current lender first and ask about assuming the mortgage. You’ll need to qualify, but you may keep the existing interest rate, payment, and equity in your home – all BIG difference makers in maintaining your budget and net worth. Remember – you won’t be the first divorcee they’ve worked with and they want your business.” Mark, Minnesota
- Changing utilities (water, electric, gas, etc)
Depending on how your local utilities set up your initial account(s), you may need to re-apply or do an account ownership transfer to your name.
WHN Reader TIP – Utilities and Auto Bill Pay: “Changing account holder on utilities? This is also a good time to change as many of them as possible to an autopay or e-billing. Post-divorce life can take some adjustment – knowing how much the bills are and having them paid automatically leaves one less thing to think about…” Drew, California
- Order a credit report
This will show if any of your spouse’s assets or debt still remains on your account. Pencil re-order reminders into your calendar or planner in a few months or a year.
WHN TIP – Social Security Benefits: If your marriage lasted 10 years or more, and if you do not remarry, you may collect Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s lifetime earnings once you both reach age 62, even if he or she has remarried or has not retired.
- Prep for next year’s tax season.
Your filing status will have changed after the divorce. Talk to a financial planner or your tax professional on how to prepare for these changes. Some things to keep in mind given you’ll be filing single/individual status:
- Keep all receipts.
Have a financial planner? Have a tax planner? Talk to them both before tax season about what you’ll need to know about filing as an individual and other related tax changes relative to your situation.
Have a Human Resources department at work? Often times they can be a good resource too as you change your filing status
The information here is not meant to be a substitute for legal or financial advice, please consult with trusted legal and financial counsel. The divorce process differs in every state. Consult a family law attorney or divorce mediator about the necessary steps you’ll need to take for your area of jurisdiction.
Thank You …
A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, mediators, financial planners and individuals who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.
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