A final decree of divorce in Texas will typically have two main sections: one dealing with your children (if you and your spouse have any together) and then another on financial issues. Issues like where and how to exchange personal property after your divorce, who gets the house, what percentage of retirement accounts are going to the other spouse, and any other money-related to your divorce. When people think about tedious issues about divorce, this type of information is likely being pondered over.
Without further consideration, you should see that the following steps are taken after your divorce. This means that you shouldn’t spend a month or two pondering whether or not one of these items affects you. Without hesitation, I can tell you that these issues affect you and can have profound negative consequences if you do not handle them correctly and expeditiously after your divorce.
Steps to take to close out your financial life with your ex-spouse after your divorce is final
If you have any joint accounts with your ex-spouse, you should close them out following the law and your final decree of divorce. Many spouses do not share bank accounts (checking or savings) nowadays. With that said, you probably did have a mortgage, a home equity line of credit (HELOC), investment account, online account of some sort, or other shared account information somewhere with your ex-spouse.
Having your ex-spouse access your information with your permission after your divorce is finalized is not a joke. If they were to do something illegal that hurt you, it would take money and time for you to file enforcement against them for the judge to enforce a provision in your decree. You could have avoided this trouble by simply closing out all joint accounts held by you and your spouse at the beginning of your single life.
Do you have household bills, car notes, or mortgage payments that are automatically deducted from a formerly jointly held bank account? If so, you should update this information on the website for the business that initiates those bank withdrawals. In all of the hustle and bustle associated with closing out a divorce, this is the type of information that often slips between the cracks. Don’t let this happen to you.
Update passwords to ones that your ex-spouse could not guess
Do you use the same password for each of your online accounts? This is not an intelligent thing to do, though I understand why you would, given how difficult it can be to remember a unique password for 10-15 accounts that you have scattered all over the internet. The fact is that folks that use shared passwords for a host of websites are the people that are more susceptible to having their online information compromised.
To minimize your risk of being among those whose information could be compromised, I suggest that you update your passwords regularly. A great time to do this is after your final decree of divorce is entered and you and your ex-spouse are officially divorced. I would tell you to do so even earlier, but your temporary orders probably kept you from going through this step during your divorce.
Update your insurance paperwork and policies
Imagine going through what you have just gone through in terms of your divorce. After all of the time, stress, money, and heartache were spent, something happens to you, and you pass away from a sickness, injury, or other calamities. Suppose you had not gotten around to updating your beneficiary on an insurance policy or your will. In that case, your ex-spouse is likely the person who will walk away with money and assets that you could have directed your children, parents, or a charity of some sort to receive instead.
Your health insurance and automobile insurance may need to have your ex-spouse removed as a covered driver or person covered by your health insurance. It does not make sense to pay premiums towards a person who is no longer eligible for coverage.
Credit card concerns
Credit cards are a way of life for many Americans. If I were to ask you to open up your wallet, we would likely find not only a general credit card or two but credit cards tailored to a specific store or website. If this is the reality that you find yourself in, there is nothing to worry about in particular, but you should update your agreement with the company to make sure your ex-spouse is removed from the account. If your spouse is only allowed to use the card and is not on the history, this should be remedied early on after your divorce has been completed.
If you can close a credit card account without your spouse’s permission, you should do so. Next, open up your credit card account in your name only. If you plan to establish credit in your name, you should begin to use that account, assuming that you can pay the bill in full at the end of each month. It certainly would not be an excellent idea for you to take on a bunch of debt at this specific point in your life if at all possible.
Have you checked your credit report recently? We always tell folks to check their credit report at the beginning of a divorce, but it is also a good idea to do so after your divorce. You can get a better idea of where your debts are regarding what you need to do to develop a game plan to pay off debt. While your divorce was more or less a holding period for your life from a financial standpoint, your post-divorce life allows you to get back on track financially speaking by paying off debt and starting to save money again.
Sweat the (relatively) small stuff
Finally, don’t overlook what we commonly refer to as the “small stuff.” If you were awarded your home in the divorce, then update all utility bills, cable/satellite television bills, and other accounts to be in your name only instead of you and your spouse. This is a nice thing to do in that your ex-spouse does not need to be listed as having any role in your new home and new life. Allow them to do their own thing, and you do the same. Doing so will not allow your spouse to access your information either.
It would be best if you didn’t think that your ex-spouse would be scheming to do something underhanded to you after your divorce, and it is unlikely that they would do something like this. However, you need only speak to your attorney to learn about people in your position who were negatively affected by an ex-spouse acting against the terms of their divorce decree and basic human decency. The nice thing is that you can avoid being in this situation by simply following the pieces of advice that we’ve laid out for you in today’s blog post.
Developing a coherent financial plan and closing out this topic of post-divorce life
Tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will be the final one that deals with handling your post-divorce life responsibly and effectively. We will go over issues related to developing a solid financial plan and how it can impact multiple areas of your life post-divorce. If you have any questions about what you’ve read today, then 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.