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 really 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 actually 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 some 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 him or her to review and sign. If that is never submitted to your judge then your case will eventually be dismissed. In some counties like Harris they will either get your order in relatively quick succession or your case will be dismissed. 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 your, your spouse’s and the attorney’s signatures a judge will still have to review and approve of the order. If the judge does not approve of the order he or she will let your attorneys know and the order will need to be revised before he or she will sign off. Even after the order is signed by all parties and the judge 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 that has an “unofficial copy” watermark across each page or something similar. If you are looking for a nice, 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 important to get because your work is just beginning once your divorce has concluded. You will need to take your copy of the decree and notify your employer first and foremost. Your tax status will likely change as a result of 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. This name change being granted by a judge 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 so that a new social security card can be issued to you. Your employer will need to update your name in the records of your company as well as in a 401(k), life insurance and other areas of importance. Do you have a mortgage, credit cards 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 of time.
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 one that 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 to it 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 their all for you while 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. Point being- take it upon yourself to learn about your divorce decree and what your responsibilities are under it.
I should note, however, that if your divorce decree requires your attorney to take some action in regard to a QDRO, for example, after your divorce decree is entered then he or she absolutely needs 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 him or her to do on your behalf. You can help him or her to do so by contacting their office and getting status updates. There should not be much that is required of him or her 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) in order to be compliant. Both you and your spouse will have responsibilities under the order. If you want to be a true overachiever you can make a separate checklist for your ex-spouse so that you are aware of what his/her responsibilities are and when those responsibilities need to be completed by.
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 note of that. Work with your ex-spouse to get these issues out of the way early. Keep track of communication with him or her. Email does this automatically for you so instead of phone calls or texts do it via electronic mail. This will help you in the event that 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 for your interest 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.