Implementing the Terms of a Divorce

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

    One of the most important things to remember, following a divorce, is that there are things that must still be done following the divorce.

    Don’t wait to do these things, thinking that you can do them when you get around to them.

    Don’t wait thinking that they are unimportant.

    If you fail to get life insurance that you are ordered to get by the divorce, you may lose significant assets if you cannot later qualify for life insurance, and something else is necessary to put the other side in the position they would have been in if you had got the life insurance the court required when you still qualified for it.

    If you fail to get required life insurance, and then you die, your entire estate may go to satisfy the life insurance obligation, if the life insurance obligation was big enough, leaving nothing for your own heirs.

    If the other side has been ordered to get life insurance, do not wait to check to be sure that he or she has done so, and that you or the children are the beneficiaries of this life insurance.  Also, do not wait to be sure that the premium has been paid, and that you will be given a notice by the insurance company if the coverage is ever changed or if the coverage ever lapses.

    Do not wait to put a reminder on your calendar to periodically check on this, as well.

    Similarly, do not wait to be sure that all joint credit accounts are closed, or that the other side has paid any joint accounts that they were ordered to pay.  If they do not pay these accounts, do not wait to take action to force the other side to pay these accounts, or to pay them yourself and collect the payment from the other side (if the Judgment of Dissolution contemplates this).

    Do not wait to transfer property, whether this is tangible personal property like a car, or real estate, such as a house.  Make sure that the title is changed, whether this means getting a new car title from the DMV, or ensuring that a new deed is recorded in the county records.  Sometimes the Judgment of Dissolution itself can be recorded to transfer title to real estate, but this is not always the case.  You should consult a lawyer in these regards.

    Do not wait to transfer retirement assets using a QDRO prepared by a specialist following the divorce, either.

    Failing to do any of these things can result in greatly increased legal expenses later, as well as considerable hardship if, for example, the sale of a house falls through because title was not properly transferred in advance, or a retirement asset is unexpectedly lost to the other side, long after you stopped thinking of it as being partly or completely owned by the other side.

    Fixing things after the fact or on an emergency basis is almost always more expensive than doing them correctly when there is no time pressure, and when things have not changed due to the passage of time.