Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will focus on some bigger picture issues that are relevant to your divorce. You may not be focused on these particular issues and that is understandable. You probably have the feeling that you are merely trying to keep your head above water during this time. Focusing on anything else would be too much effort for a minimal reward.
I would argue to you that while the rewards your receive for considering these issues may not be immediately, they are important to you and to your children. With that said, let’s take a look at a few of these issues that I believe at least need to cross your radar during your divorce.
What to do about your child’s college education
Saving for college is one of the most important things that a parent can do for their child. It may not be fun or glamorous or exciting but it is necessary. College costs have skyrocketed in recent years and there is no sign of any decline in those costs. Couple that with there being a legitimate crisis in the world of student loans and you have a recipe for disaster awaiting your child if you do not plan ahead for their post-high school education.
If you have not set up a specified college fund for your child fear not. You are able to withdraw money from a Individual Retirement Account (IRA) without penalty if the money goes directly to pay for your child’s college tuition. If you are over the age of 59 ½ there is no penalty for withdrawing funds for any use, I should add.
There are many options out there for you to be able to save money for your child’s or your grandchild’s education. An IRA is one option that allows you a great deal of autonomy in controlling where the money is invested and then being able to withdraw it tax free in the case of your having invested your money into a Roth IRA.
This is relevant to your divorce because, as we’ve discussed for the better part of a week, IRAs often are divided up in divorces. If you have a divorce on the horizon and are concerned about this occurring to your family then consider whether or not there is an offer you can make to your spouse of an equally valuable asset to trade in for the IRA. The odds are decent that your spouse will agree with you that the IRA that was funded to finance a child’s education should remain, anyways.
Updating or changing beneficiaries in your retirement plans or insurance policies
This is a critical step for you to take during your divorce. The last thing you want is to go through a difficult divorce only to pass away soon thereafter and have all of your belongings or your life insurance proceeds go to your ex-spouse. To avoid this unfortunate outcome from occurring it is recommended that you go through your paperwork and update beneficiaries as soon as your divorce decree is approved by the judge. You are likely barred from doing so during the divorce.
Moving forward after your divorce concludes
Imagine that you are completely done with your divorce and you are now considering your next moves as a single adult. It’s been a long road to get to this point but there are always additional steps that you can take to ensure that your divorce concludes without a hitch and you propel into the next phase of your life with nothing hindering you from your divorce.
First of all, your divorce decree is not the only document that will be filed with the court upon the conclusion of your divorce case. There is a basic form that identifies you and your spouse and will be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin. There are child support related documents and wage withholding orders if your pay is to be withheld in order to pay monthly child support. It is critical that these final documents be filled out correctly and submitted with your decree to the court. Work with your attorney to make sure closing documents like these are all complete and are all correct.
We spoke yesterday about a Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO) and its importance when dividing up many kinds of retirement plans. Your attorney should plan ahead and work to get approval from your spouse’s retirement plan administrator so that the QDRO language is approved once it is signed by the judge. If the plan does not accept the QDRO you will run into a situation where you are going to have to go back to court for the judge’s signature on the document once a judge has signed off on it. The last thing you want is a hiccup on receiving the funds from your spouse’s plan after you have already paid your attorney and your case has been closed.
When your judgment is entered is your case actually done and over with?
As I just noted, no, your case is not necessarily done even when the judge says that you and your spouse are officially divorced. For one thing, you need to follow up with your attorney’s office to make sure progress is being made on splitting up the retirement accounts as planned. You and your attorney will submit a QDRO to the plan administrator as soon as your divorce decree has been signed off on by the judge.
I realize that much of what I just mentioned doesn’t appear to be advice for you so much as it is advice for the attorney that will be representing you in your divorce. However, remember that you are ultimately the person in charge of your case. You have trust in your attorney, and he or she must put your interests before their own, but your attorney is not the person who is ultimately going to be benefitted or burdened by the outcome of your divorce. Since you are the person for whom the divorce is being done for it behooves you to follow through on your case and see to it that it is prosecuted well.
Our office has certain closing procedures that must be done and verified before we will move your case from an “active” case to a “closed” case. However, it does happen that some attorneys do not have systems like this in place. As a result, your case could be left open if the other attorney allows it to be. Could you imagine what it must be like to think that you are divorced only to find out months later that there is still work to be done?
The bottom line is that the judge must sign your final decree of divorce and then have the clerk of his or her court enter the signed judgment into the official record of your case. At this point you are officially divorced. Until then close enough does not count. Work with your attorney, even after a final trial or mediation, to make sure that their office has everything needed to finalize and put the divorce behind you.
Moving on from divorce in a responsible manner- tomorrow’s blog post topic
As we wind down our series of blog posts on issues surrounding divorce, we will look at your life post-divorce. What should you do to ensure your case closes out successfully? How should you approach various issues now that you are a single adult? We will touch on these subjects and more tomorrow right here on our blog.
In the meantime if you have any questions for the attorneys with our office please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. We take great pride in representing people from all parts of our community and look forward to having an opportunity to discuss the possibility of working on your behalf as well.