When you have at long last attended mediation for final orders or have withstood a trial for the same purpose, you probably feel a sense of relief. You may even be asking yourself if this is it- the end of your divorce. While in some ways it is the biggest hurdle to clear in completing your divorce, your case is not done and over with at this stage. While you have the shell of what your Final Decree of Divorce will look like, it is not a done deal quite yet. Let's examine this in detail at the outset of today's blog post.
On a basic level, your judge will need to get a written version of the final orders in your case for them to review and sign. If never submitted to your judge, your case will eventually be dismissed. In some counties like Harris, they will either get your order in relatively quick succession, or your lawsuit will be rejected. If you live in a less populous county, the judge may have the time and space to keep your case on the active docket. Be aware of this and work with your attorney to make sure an order is being prepared by either your attorney or your spouse's attorney.
Following the submittal of an order that bears you, your spouse's, and the attorney's signatures, a judge will still have to review and approve the order. If the judge disapproves of the order, they will let your attorneys know, and the order will need to be revised before they will sign off. Even after all parties and the judge sign the order, you will need to ensure all costs, fees, costs, and ancillary documents have been submitted. Your attorney should know what is required in the country that has jurisdiction over your case, but it is not a bad idea to go to the clerk's website to verify for yourself so that you know what to expect.
Once your final order has been submitted to the judge, signed, and entered by the clerk, you should request a copy of the judgment to keep handy for yourself. Nowadays, most counties have electronic versions online that you can access for free and review. Printing a version online usually leaves you with a document with an "unofficial copy" watermark across each page or something similar. If you are looking for an excellent, presentable copy for your records, you will need to ask the clerk for a certified or non-certified copy.
Telling various people and entities that you are divorced
A copy of your final decree of divorce is essential to get because your work is just beginning once your divorce has concluded. You will need to take your copy of the law and notify your employer first and foremost. Your tax status will likely change due to your divorce, and you should submit new tax documents showing the exemptions you will be claiming now that you are a single person. Calculate this number as closely as you can so you don't end up paying too much or too little in your federal income taxes.
Many people move shortly after their divorce for a whole host of reasons. If you are counted among this group, you should fill out a forwarding address form and submit that to the post office.
Changing your name after your divorce
As a result of your divorce, you may have requested and been granted a name change. A judge who gives this name change will not automatically change your name on important documents and in the records of our government. You will need to contact the Social Security Administration to issue a new social security card. Your employer will need to update your name in your company's records and a 401(k), life insurance, and other areas of importance. Do you have a mortgage, credit card, or other loans active? These folks will need to know your new name as well. Oh, yea- driver's licenses and passports need to be updated as well. It is tedious work to do all of this, but from my experience, if you do not do so immediately following your divorce, you will likely find yourself putting it off for an extended period.
Organize your life as best you can once your divorce is done and over with
Did it feel like your life was a bit helter-skelter during your divorce? I think that's normal and would probably be a little odd if you did not feel this way. After all, your life was flipped around on its head for a period of a few months while you and your spouse worked to dislodge one another from your respective lives. Your support system and life partner ceased to be, and you are now left to build your life back up as a single person. This is not an easy transition and cannot be overstated in how difficult it must be for you.
With all of that said, once your divorce decree has been signed by the judge and entered into the record of your case, it is your job to understand the orders and see that they are followed. It is not the job of your attorney, your judge, or the opposing attorney to police you and your ex-spouse and your interactions with one another. Trust me when I say that while an attorney will give it, they are all for you. At the same time, your case is active; once your case is done, we will move on to the next person that needs our help. It's just the way of the world in that regard. The point is- take it upon yourself to learn about your divorce decree and what your responsibilities are under it.
However, I should note that if your divorce decree requires your attorney to take some action regarding a QDRO, for example, after your divorce decree is entered, they need to do so. Their responsibility to you is not done until all of the requirements under that decree are met as far as what is ordered for them to do on your behalf. You can help them by contacting their office and getting status updates. There should not be much required of them, but you can help and keep your attorney accountable.
You can read through the document and make a list for yourself as to what you need to do (and the order you need to do those things in) to be compliant. Both you and your spouse will have responsibilities under the order. Suppose you want to be a true overachiever. In that case, you can make a separate checklist for your ex-spouse so that you are aware of what their responsibilities are and when those responsibilities need to be completed.
Make a separate file in your home or on a computer/cloud platform to keep issues related to your home, your finances, your children, etc., all independent and organized. If titles to your vehicle and home need to be transferred into your name, make a note of that. Work with your ex-spouse to get these issues out of the way early. Please keep track of communication with them. Email does this automatically for you, so instead of phone calls or texts, do it via electronic mail. This will help you if an enforcement suit needs to be filed later should your spouse not live up to their end of the agreement.
More advice on closing out and moving on from a divorce will be posted in our blog tomorrow.
Thank you so much for being interested in today's blog post topic. We hope that you will return tomorrow to read more about post-divorce life. If you have questions about anything you've read, 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.