Top Ten List of “Things To Do” Following a Divorce Proceeding!
Similar to David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists, many family blog sites have postings regarding the top ten “Things to Do” following a divorce proceeding. This is my list of priority items to accomplish after the filing of the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO “AFTER” A DIVORCE
Number 1: Read, study, examine, and explore the terms of your Final Decree. Make a list of those things Husband is to do and a list of those items Wife is to do. No one is available to “police” the terms of your Final Decree. If you do not receive a lump sum payment or if you do not receive the title to the car you are driving, or if you do not receive your share of the other spouse’s retirement benefits, no one knows that until or unless you bring it to the attention of your counsel and the Court. Your counsel can then write letters to the opposing counsel to determine if compliance shall be forthcoming or if a Motion to Show Cause is appropriate.
Number 2: Take steps to establish a workable budget. You have just left a marital relationship wherein there may have been two incomes to support one household. You are now entering a situation where there are two households to maintain with much less income available for each household. Many of my clients do not care for this advice, but…it may be necessary to look for part-time employment during the weekends that the children spend with the other spouse. And, it may be necessary to consider whether you could be available to provide day-care services for other parents before or after school for additional income. These are difficult times for all of us!
Number 3: Take a look at your Last Will and Testament, life insurance policies, and any accounts having a designated beneficiary. During “happy times” you may have designated your spouse to be the beneficiary of your estate, life insurance proceeds, and certain accounts having a designated beneficiary. It is very important that you change those documents to accurately reflect the person or persons you are choosing post-Divorce to receive benefits from you in the event of your untimely demise.
Number 4: If you are the Ex-Wife and if you have chosen to be restored to your maiden or former name, you must take care of certain details. Be certain to advise the Social Security Administration and to obtain a new Social Security Card, to advise the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and obtain a new driver’s license, and to advise any and all banks and credit card companies with whom you conduct business of your change in name. If you are a registered voter or a user of a lending library, you will have to notify the Office of Voter Registration and the specific lending library of your change in name. If you have minor children and/or if you have an established professional name, you may want to retain your married name so that you retain the same last name as your children and so that you have continuity with your business contacts. For example, in my personal situation, I had practiced law in the geographical area of Dayton, Ohio, for nine (9) years at the time of my divorce. I was “known” or “identified” in the Dayton community as R. Anne Shale. If I had changed my name to R. Anne McClure, no one would have recognized who I “was”!!
Number 5: Consult with a tax professional. If you are the Ex-Wife and if you shall be receiving spousal support which is taxable income to you, consult with an individual or a business specializing in the preparation of personal income tax returns, so that you are prepared for the income tax consequences of your receipt of spousal support. Ideally, the income tax specialist would assist you with the payment of quarterly income taxes so that you would not be “hit” with the need to pay income taxes on the receipt of your annual spousal support at the end of the year.
Number 6: Be certain that all joint banking accounts and all joint credit card accounts, to include debit card accounts, are closed! You do not want the ex-spouse to be able to make purchases on joint accounts after the divorce has taken place.
Number 7: Follow-up with the completion of all necessary paperwork if you are to receive continuation of health insurance benefits via COBRA (“Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act”). This will be a very important task as you do not want to lose your health insurance benefits.
Number 8: Take an assessment of the friends and companions with whom you associate. Are they positive and supportive? Are they bitter, negative, pessimistic, and/or depressive? If they are in the first category, keep them and cultivate the relationships. If they are in the second category, consider changing friendships and relationships. You are entering a new “phase” or “stage” of your life. You do not want “negativism” and “bitterness” to be the focus for this next stage of your life.
Number 9: If you are feeling overwhelmed with the tasks of life, if you are not sleeping well, if you are not feeling well, if you are depressed, sad, and/or teary…..seek counseling with a mental health therapist. You need to take care of “you” so that you can return to being a happy and productive member of society and to return to being a person who enjoys life.
Number 10: Do something positive for you and your feeling of well-being! Consider some change in your appearance…a change in make-up and/or hair style. Purchase some new clothing, new shoes…to enhance your appearance. Think about joining a fitness club or spa. Consider walking, running, biking…any physical activity to get you to be more fit and physically healthy!
A “break up” of a marriage is a traumatic event in one’s life….the demise of the relationship generates a multitude of problems and questions about what will happen now. Be smart and responsible in your divorce transition planning! This is the new start, and regardless of whether you wanted it or not, seize the opportunity for future stability and happiness!
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.