Putting Your House In Order
A divorce order ends your legal marital contract and divides your worldly goods. What do you do with your portion – and we are hoping it’s a fair 50-50 split – is up to you. If you were the partner who let your spouse take care of the checkbook, the investment decisions, the taxes, the insurance, you have a lot of catching up to do, but there’s help available in your community and online. If you have always been an equal partner in marriage, you will find it much easier to go solo. In either case, where you go from here is up to you.
Essential Things to Do:
- Tie up loose ends – Sadly, it’s not over when the judge signs the decree. You may find yourself back in court to adjust alimony, child support or visitation. Keep those legal files up to date and continue keeping a telephone log.
- Change official documents – Consider it part of your post divorce closure “not to mention good business” to make sure that the deed to the house, titles to cars or boats, your will, insurance policies, pensions, credit cards and any assets you held jointly are now in your name. Refer to our assets list for couples to make sure you don’t overlook anything in the transition.
- Consider a name change – If you are a woman who assumed her husband’s name, you may choose to return to your maiden name or a previous married name. Change your name on important documents like your will and retirement plan and notify your friends, doctor, dentist, lawyer, employer, insurance companies, credit card firms, bank and brokerage firm. You will also have to change your official identity with government offices like Social Security, tax agencies, the passport office, voter registration, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Veterans Administration and the Post Office. In most cases a simple letter will do, but a certified copy of the divorce order may be required by government agencies. Find name-change laws in your state.
- Get organized – Keep track of your financial and legal affairs by setting up a filing system that lets you put your hands on anything you need fast. Rent a safety deposit box for important papers if you don’t already have one in your name. Make sure you pay bills on time. You may want to consider automatic payments through your bank account or writing the checks out when the bills arrive.
- Hire an expert – You may want an accountant, a money manager, a full-service stockbroker, but before you turn over your financial future to anybody, know what you’re turning over and do a little homework about money management. Check out books about money on our book shelf.