After a divorce is completed, there is usually still a lot of work to be done.
In many cases the Judgment of Dissolution will specify that a person’s retirement benefits in general have been awarded to that person, or that specific retirement or 401Ks or IRAs or portions of these assets have been awarded to that person, and that the other person has no more interest in those items.
In other cases, retirement assets (or parts of retirement assets) which are in one person’s name may be awarded to the other person by the General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
The fact that a retirement asset has been awarded to one spouse or the other by the Judgment does not mean that you should rely on the Judgment.
You should go to the person or entity that administers the retirement, or that holds the 401K or IRA or the like, to make sure that their records are updated to show that you own the entire asset, and that your former spouse has no interest in the asset, if you are awarded your own retirement assets.
You should, of course, ensure that the appropriate retirement assets (or portions of them) are transferred to the spouse who is awarded them if such assets are awarded to the former spouse other than the former spouse whose name is on the asset.
This is true whether you are the former spouse who is receiving the asset, or the former spouse who has been ordered to give up the asset. Both former spouses need to work together in this regard. Both will likely incur additional attorney fees to do this, but this is necessary to implement the terms of the General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, and the costs will be much greater if this is left undone for any significant period of time after the divorce is otherwise final.
This is the subject of a separate article that will also be published on this site at some point.
There are other general things you should do as well. Many of these things relate to estate and incapacity planning. These also will be the subject of a separate article.
You will also want to ensure that all insurance is up to date, and the insurance properly lists you (and not your spouse) as the beneficiary on things that were awarded to you in the divorce.
You will also want to check on all life and health insurance policies to be sure they reflect the post divorce reality.
In some cases, it may be your obligation to obtain a policy of life insurance on your former spouse, or to pay for a policy of life insurance on your former spouse, although your former spouse will have to work with you on this.
You will also need to check to be sure that all tax related matters are being handled properly, and that all changes and notifications to both state and federal tax authorities have been put in place.
In addition, you will want to double check that all the things set out in the Judgment of Dissolution have been properly dealt with. These include retitling vehicles, real estate, and the like, and dealing with credit cards and other credit accounts.
In addition, if things are supposed to happen in the future, like the refinance of a house, or the removal of one of your names from a piece of property, you will need to make sure that you and/or your former spouse are making appropriate progress toward those goals.
Please note that not all of these things happen automatically.
Please also note that sometimes Judgments of Dissolution are not properly written, and do NOT automatically transfer the ownership of real estate or vehicles, even though both parties intended this to happen.
For more on these points, please see related articles posted on this site.
Steven A. Heinrich
Divorce & Custody
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