Now That the Divorce is Finalized, Are There Things I Need to Do?
Updated: Nov 22, 2021
Make sure your bank accounts and credit cards are secure.
Your best bet is to close any accounts or credit cards that your ex-spouse had access to. Even if you change your passwords, and inform the banks of the changes, if they have their own login information, and they call the bank, they may be able to regain access to your accounts. Even if you inform the bank, as long as people are involved in the process, mistakes can be made, or information missed. The only real way to secure your financial accounts is to close your existing accounts and start fresh with new accounts or even a new bank.
Update all your paperwork, such as Last Will, Beneficiary information on investment accounts, and life insurance policies.
When you are married, you often name your spouse first as a beneficiary on any insurance policies or investment accounts. Make sure you account for all your policies and accounts and remove your ex as your beneficiary. As you are going through the accounts speaking with the brokers, make sure your ex does not have any access to the accounts.
If you have had a Will written, contact the attorney who wrote and filed it, and have it changed to remove your ex. Before you change your Will, speak with the attorney and ask if they can still represent you. The attorney will no longer be able to represent both of you. Your attorney might advise or insist that you retain a new attorney to represent you as an individual before updating your advance directive paperwork.
If you have not had a Will, healthcare proxy, or durable power of attorney created for you, do it. As a single adult, if you have any medical issues, you want to make sure there is someone you trust who can speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. If something happens and you die without a will, any assets you own will be distributed by the probate courts, and that can be stressful on a family.
Make sure you are covered by your own health and auto insurance.
After a divorce, you are going to be responsible for your own health insurance. If your ex-spouses insurance covers you, the insurance company may contact you to let you know what your premiums will be to continue coverage. As divorce is a qualifying event, you can also register for your own insurance outside of the window of open enrollment. You can also find coverage on Covered California.
Tell your employer of your change in status and update your W4 to change your income tax withholding status
If your benefits package includes any sort of life insurance, you should also work with your Human Resources representative to update your benefits to change beneficiary information.
Another thing you need to check is your car? Whose name is on the title and registration? You will need to transfer ownership of the vehicle to yourself with a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability from the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will also need to acquire your own auto insurance, if the insurance policy is under your name, make sure that your ex-spouse is removed from the policy and no longer has access to the account.
After a divorce, there are a thousand little details that need to be taken care of. Some are more important than others. Items related to finances, taxes, insurance, and advance directives should be taken care of as soon as possible. Other details might be included in the divorce decree, and some can be taken care of over time.
Changing your name
If you are considering changing your name to your maiden name, you can have this done as a part of the divorce. If you decide to have your name changed after the divorce is final, it is a simple process that usually takes about 2 to 4 weeks to complete once you inform the court clerk, provide the required information and complete an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order (Family Law) (Form FL-395). However, times may vary based upon the workload for the court clerk and the court.
If you change your name, either as part of the Judgment or after the fact, you will have to contact your financial institutions, insurance companies, etc., to inform them of the change. You should also make sure that you take the appropriate steps with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles to have your new legal name changed with these agencies.