Your Post-Divorce Checklist

Even the most amicable divorce can be stressful. When it involves large assets or children, it can also be complicated. Unfortunately, you and your ex-spouse may still have some things to do after you’ve both signed off on the marriage’s dissolution. If you recently divorced your spouse, keep this checklist in mind for next steps.

Personal Information

The most obvious symbol of marriage is the naming tradition. Most marriages involve some form of name change, whether the traditional method of changing the wife’s name to her husband’s, hyphenated naming conventions, or even husbands taking their wives’ names. Either way, changing one’s name following a divorce is a common first step – and can be as simple as providing proof of the divorce to initiate a name restoration. However, if you’ve taken your spouse’s name during a marriage, the law doesn’t require you to return to your former name.

Court documents will need to be clear. If the court documents do not require a name change, however, it may be necessary to file an ex parte application, or FL-395 in California, that allows a judge to change the divorce documents to allow for a name change. This process is considerably easier for those restoring an old name for which they have documentation and proof of using previously. Loss of documents, lack of evidence – such as recent immigration status – or taking on a new, unused name may be obstacles to the name change process.

Changing the name of children – usually to the mother’s maiden name – is more complicated. Traditional law allows for fathers to petition to keep their children’s name the same, but this has come under scrutiny in recent years, and the decision comes down to the judge. Ultimately, it may require a court order to change the name of children – unless a new stepparent is adopting them. Either way, a name change does not signify the loss of a legal relationship between parent and child.

Following a name change, it is important to update all personal information across all platforms and contexts. You must also change social security cards, bank accounts, and other critical resources to reflect the new name. Failing to do so can result in identity troubles down the road, along with plenty of confusion.

Financial Changes

Financial troubles do not end once the divorce proceeding determines alimony, separation, and assets. Joint bank accounts, for example, present a challenge unto themselves during and after the divorce. The courts generally classify finances or large assets during divorce as separate or marital property. Of course, some of this depends on whether the couple acquired the finances before or during the marriage. This can complicate ownership of funds and bank accounts. Closing a joint bank account requires both ex-spouses’ consent, but mediation or the courts will determine the ownership of funds during the divorce proceedings.

Update financial plans and estates following a divorce. Consider changing beneficiaries for health and life insurance policies, as well as any other joint financial policy you both hold. One critical area where this can manifest is estate law. It is vitally important to revoke a will following a divorce, as not doing so means the ex-spouse may inherit, although California state law does indicate the revocation of gifts made upon death in the event of divorce. Regardless, revoking a will means that there is no legal challenge to the new beneficiaries and removes the ex-spouse from inheritance altogether.

The hardest part of divorce is planning with regard to finances. Moving from a two to a single person income can pose significant challenges for a person’s ability to support his or her life. Following a divorce, talk openly with your attorney about planning and adjusting finances, spending and living expenses.