There are times when negotiating a divorce settlement starts to feel like searching for the Holy Grail—an all-consuming pursuit of an elusive, quite possibly mythical goal. In contentious, financially-complex divorces, the process can take months or even years. That’s why getting to the end—and you will get there—is often cause for celebration and relief.
Despite all that, many women are disappointed to discover that all their divorce-related financial troubles do not neatly resolve when their ex-husband signs the settlement documents. Yes, your agreement will say exactly what must be divided and how much goes to whom. But it’s quite likely you will still need to keep your attorney and divorce financial advisor close at hand to work through the practical details of how the agreement is implemented.
Some of the post-divorce financial matters you’ll face—name, address, emergency contact changes, etc.—are simple housekeeping. Just make sure you have copies of your divorce decree to provide to all who will require it. Other issues may become a matter of your very livelihood, and warrant serious attention.
If you haven’t already, you will need to:
- Look after your credit. Cancel any joint credit cards that remain. If you haven’t established credit in your name alone, attend to that immediately.
- Disinherit your husband. With your divorce finally, in the rearview, you probably don’t want your ex to inherit from you should you die. Alter your will and other estate planning documents accordingly.
- Change beneficiary designations. Update insurance policies, retirement accounts, pensions, trusts, annuities, and anywhere else you may have listed your former husband.
- Split retirement plans according to the terms of your divorce settlement agreement. If the specifics of this aspect of your settlement have not yet been spelled out, you will need expert guidance. While different division schemes may look equitable, their administrative costs and tax consequences could vary widely. To divide 401(k)s or other pension plans (but not IRAs), you will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) from the court to instruct plan administrators how to pay out the appropriate benefits.
- Take measures to ensure you receive your spousal and/or child support. Your agreement says what you’re supposed to get. Sadly, though, many ex-husbands don’t honor these obligations. How will you ensure that yours will? Can you arrange automatic transfers from his bank account, or will you have to rely on him to write checks?