Once you finally have made it through your divorce, you may want to do nothing more than put your feet up and assess your situation for a good long while. After all, you’ve had to go through an emotional, time-consuming, and complicated process. It would be understandable not to have the energy or the will at the moment to go through with anything further associated with your divorce. While your instinct may be to rest and recuperate, I would advise against doing that.
Getting yourself organized may be more accessible now than it ever has been. While you were married, you and your spouse may have had very different ideas about how to structure your lives and how to organize yourselves. Maybe you were the type always to want to get ahead of the following problem or challenge, but your spouse was a person who was more “laid back” and had a wait-and-see approach to life. This could have been something that has held you back previously in many regards. Now that you are divorced, there are no more excuses like that to consider.
Exchanging personal items with your ex-spouse after the divorce
Once you have gotten your life on track and organized, you should reach out to your ex-spouse to see if there is a preferred date/time/location for dropping off and exchanging personal items with them that can be worked on. Many divorce decrees have orders that mandate you and your ex-spouse go through with an exchange of property allocated to one another in the divorce. Some of it may have already been exchanged, but it can take time after a divorce for this to occur in total. A big reason for that is the lull in getting organized and back on your feet after the divorce is finally over.
It is a good idea not to be petty about this exchange. Treat your ex-spouse’s belongings as if they were your own; if you know your spouse to be the type who will not take the lead on initiating contact, you need to reach out to them to set up the exchange details. Again, if you put off this exchange, it is more than likely not to happen in the manner prescribed in your divorce decree. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including implanting the idea in your and your ex-spouse’s minds that it is ok to deviate from the divorce decree. You didn’t go through the entire divorce, all the time spent on it, and all the negotiation required to get your divorce decree only to begin to deviate from it as soon as the divorce is over with.
You can make a record of all the emails that you have exchanged with your ex-spouse regarding turning over personal property to the other, as stated in your divorce decree. An easy thing to do, and I believe you are well within your rights to propose, is to ask them if it is ok to recycle, throw away or donate items that are not picked up within a certain amount of time. This will tell your ex-spouse that you are ready to move on and start fresh after the divorce and will hopefully encourage them to get off the couch and claim their property quickly.
A note on exchanging vehicles after a divorce
It is a different matter altogether to give your spouse a t-shirt that you have had of theirs instead of handing over a vehicle awarded to them in your divorce. Your divorce decree likely has specific steps that need to be taken regarding a vehicle exchange. Changing the name on the title to the vehicle is probably one of those steps that can be taken care of by contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles. Insurance will need to be updated if you remove or add a vehicle to your policy. None of these steps are all that demanding or expensive- they take time and a little bit of effort.
Transferring retirement assets per your divorce decree
If you were awarded a portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement savings, then you have likely worked with your attorney to get that transfer set up so that it could occur with few hitches, if any. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a particular order signed by your judge that details how the transfer would occur. If your attorney never got the judge to sign a QDRO, that needs to be done as soon as possible to allow this transfer to occur.
Once the QDRO is signed by the judge and entered into the record of your case, it will be mailed to the plan administrator for your ex-spouse’s retirement plan. The administrator will then transfer the allotted funds to a designated account in your name. Note that the method requires specific language to be included in the QDRO. Your attorney cannot simply utilize language from a previous case and insert the particular name of your ex-spouse’s plan and call it a day. It is always best to hire an attorney with divorce experience and experience in preparing QDROs.
Make sure child support is set up correctly.
Along with your divorce decree, your attorney should have prepared child support paperwork filed with your court. If you are the spouse on the hook for paying support, you should keep records of your payments- do not rely on the State to do so for you. One tip that I always give clients is to make your payment through the State Disbursement Unit. Do not pay in cash even if your ex-spouse says they will accept a payment made in this manner. The reason is that the price will not show up as an “official” payment, and you will not get credit for having done so if your ex-spouse claims that you have missed a payment.
Medical costs and insurance are covered as a side item and child support. Check the language in your divorce decree to verify what your specific requirements are as far as maintaining a record of your child’s medical costs is, but you should have a history of what out-of-pocket costs are at the very least. Your decree probably requires you and your ex-spouse to split the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses. These costs can be submitted to your ex-spouse at the end of each month. Get in the habit of doing so and go so far as to set up a reminder on your phone to regularly have you compile a record to send to your ex-spouse.
Finally, if you have lost your job or had a change in the income, you should seek the court’s modification of your child support order. A substantial change in circumstances is what a court will be looking for in this situation. It is not a good idea to wait for a court to do something for you in this regard because it will not. You can contact the Office of the Attorney General, the clerk for your court, or an attorney to learn more about doing so. Don’t let your situation slip into months of unpaid child support. This can come back to hunt you and will leave you facing an enforcement case that can be filed by your ex-spouse or the Office of the Attorney General.
Wrapping up financial aspects of your divorce- tomorrow’s blog post topic from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have questions about the financial aspects of your divorce case and how best to resolve them after a divorce, then you should return to our blog tomorrow to read more about this. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, offers free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week.