What Do I Do Now That I’m Divorced? Understanding Your Judgment of Divorce

What Do I Do Now That I’m Divorced? Understanding Your Judgment of Divorce

Your judgment of divorce has been officially signed and entered by the court.  What happens next?  Your judgment contains a lot of important terms that define what your rights and responsibilities are now that the divorce is final.

The following are commonly included provisions.  Keep in mind, this is not a complete list!  There may be things listed here that do not apply to you and there may be things that do apply that are not listed below.  If you have questions about your specific judgment, please call our office for assistance.

  1. Marital home.  Your judgment may contain a deadline for when you or your former spouse need to move out of the home or when to list it for sale.  If one of the parties is keeping the house, it may be necessary to sign a quit claim deed and/or refinance the mortgage to remove the other party from further liability.
  2. Retitling the cars.  Your judgment probably awarded a car to you and your ex-husband’s car to him.  Make sure that your car is actually titled in your sole name!  If the title is in your ex-husband’s name, he needs to sign the title over to you.  It is then your responsibility to file the title with the Secretary of State.  On a related note, it is also important to make sure that your car is properly insured and that you obtain a policy is in your name.
  3. Getting your retirement account.  If your judgment of divorce divided a retirement account, you can only transfer your share into your name by a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”).  This is a special document that divides the 401(k) or pension between you and your former spouse.  The QDRO is prepared according to the terms stated in your judgment.  After the document is entered by the court, it is sent to the retirement plan administrator to process and divide the account.  By law, this process can take up to 15 months, but is usually completed in 90-120 days.  Monies elected to be withdrawn from any qualified cash balance plan, like a 401(k), are subject to income tax in the year received.  There is no 10% penalty on the first such withdrawal after a divorce.
  4. Do you have a bank account?  Many couples have joint bank accounts that get closed and divided during the divorce.  Do a little research to find a new bank or credit union for yourself and then open an account in your name.
  5. Managing your credit cards.   Any kind of credit card debt on joint card accounts will be divided in your judgment of divorce.  It is also important to make sure you remove your former spouse as an authorized user on cards that are in your name alone, and make sure that he removes you as an authorized user on his.  If you aren’t sure about authorized users on your cards, simply call your credit card company.
  6. Health insurance coverage.  Were you covered under your former spouse’s health insurance plan?  Once the divorce is finalized, you are no longer eligible for his health insurance benefits (including dental or vision benefits).  If you are employed, you may be able to receive health insurance benefits through your work.  Talk to your human resources department for more information, and make sure to let them know that you just went through a divorce.  If you’re not employed, or your job doesn’t offer benefits, you still can get coverage elsewhere or you may wish to continue coverage under your former spouse’s plan as a COBRA participant. This may be an expensive option, however.  There are many insurance providers who offer plans for individuals (and their dependents).  A simple web search for individual health insurance plans in Michigan should give you a good start to finding the right coverage for you.
  7. Who is your beneficiary?  Double check your will or trust to see who you have listed as your beneficiary and the executor of your estate.  It’s up to you to make a new beneficiary designation.  Also, make sure to update beneficiary designations on any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, pay-on-death bank accounts, and transfer-on-death accounts.
  8. Filing your taxes.   Depending on when your divorce is finalized in the courts, you may have the option to still file as a married couple for the previous tax year (if you were still married on December 31 of that year).  You also need to keep in mind who gets to claim the children each year.  Check your judgment for provisions that deal with joint tax filings, how to split tax refund or liabilities, and the schedule for who gets to claim the children as dependency exemptions.

Carefully read the terms of your judgment.  If you have any question, just call our office and we will review it with you so that you understand what steps you need to take.  You never need to be embarrassed to tell us that you don’t understand something; one of our jobs as your attorney is to make things as clear as possible for you so that you are fully informed and able to make correct decisions.

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