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Post-Divorce Action Item Checklist

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Divorce involves a lot of steps—and a lot of emotions. When you’re in the middle of it, it can be hard to think of what comes next. 

But there is a “next”! At JB, we always emphasize to our clients that there is life after divorce and the importance of looking to the future and setting goals. Studies show that planning ahead can give you a mood boost and lead to less worrying.  

To plan ahead, though, you need to know what to anticipate, and there are many aspects of life after divorce that no one talks about. 

At JB, we work closely with our clients so they’re aware of what will come next, including things to think about after their divorce. Here are seven important post-divorce tasks to consider that no one (but us) may have told you about yet.

1. Update or create your estate plan

If you already have an estate plan, you’ll need to update it to make sure, unless your divorce agreement specifically says otherwise, that your ex isn’t listed as a beneficiary of your estate, named as a trustee for any of your trusts, or given financial or medical power of attorney on your behalf. 

While the state of New Jersey law may automatically revoke some designations following a divorce, it’s still important to establish a new Power of Attorney (POA) and Advance Medical Directive. 

On the other hand, if you don’t have a will or estate plan, creating one should be your top priority. It’s a common misconception that estate plans are just for the elderly or wealthy. No matter your age or income bracket, having an estate plan is a good idea. 

An estate plan does more than tell the courts how you want to divide your assets. It also outlines your wishes for guardianship of minor children, your wishes for healthcare and financial decision-making if you become incapacitated, and makes it easier for your loved ones to navigate your estate if you pass away. 

2. Update beneficiaries

Before your divorce, your ex was likely the beneficiary, or at least one of the beneficiaries,  of your investment accounts, retirement plans (401k or pension), life insurance policies, etc. Your divorce likely changes how those assets should be shared. 

As noted above, New Jersey automatically revokes some beneficiary designations following a divorce, but this doesn’t apply to all circumstances. Now is a good time to tap the expertise of a financial professional! They can help you update your beneficiary designations to your children, other family members, friends, or the charity of your choice. 

Be careful though; if you have financial obligations to your ex, like maintaining life insurance coverage to act as security for a support obligation, you may not be so quick to change beneficiaries. Review your divorce agreement or order carefully so you know exactly what you can—and can’t—change.

3. Put your post-divorce budget to work

What does your post-divorce budget look like? Your divorce attorney should help you during the divorce process put together what the building blocks of that might look like, allowing you to anticipate your new financial situation. 

But it can still be a shock to the system when you have to put it into practice, partly because of the hidden costs of divorce.

While we always recommend consulting financial advisors and tax planners during the divorce process to anticipate nuances in your financial picture, if you haven’t, now can be a good time. These professionals can help you navigate the realities of your new budget and make adjustments as needed. They can also help you address new tax obligations, which can be more complicated the first year or two after your divorce.  

4. Change titles and deeds

You’ll also need to change titles and deeds to reflect the ownership outlined in your divorce decree if you and your ex owned any real property or vehicles. 

Regarding the marital home, if your ex buys you out, your attorney can help you file the appropriate deeds and related documents to help effectuate title and transfers of ownership.

Similarly, you’ll need to update titles on automobiles, vehicles, intellectual property, arts and collectibles, and any other applicable assets. Processes for these updates may vary, so it’s important to work closely with your attorney to come up with a game plan.     

5. Update emergency contacts

Updating your emergency contact information falls fairly low on a scale of one to get-your-ex-off-your-bank-accounts, but it’s not something you should ignore either. 

Make a list of everyone you’ve had to give emergency contact information—your employer, medical providers, dentist, gym, school, bank, health insurance, etc.—and call a few each week.

6. Make sure you have health insurance

If you and your ex shared employer-based health insurance through either of your employers, the policyholder will need to contact their human resources department to update the policy. 

If you’re the individual being removed from the policy, know that in most situations, you can pay for COBRA coverage under your ex’s policy while you look for a new carrier. You can also look for health insurance on the federal Healthcare Marketplace if you qualify based on your income and the coverages work for your family and circumstances.

Don’t procrastinate finding health insurance, especially if you have children that aren’t provided for elsewhere in your divorce agreement (though that should have been addressed!). Ensuring that your family has the coverage they need can give you a feeling of confidence—a big mood boost during this transitionary period.

7. Address name-change needs (as applicable)   

If you decided to change your name during your divorce, your judgment of divorce will have stipulated that you could change to your maiden name or a separate “name change” order should be simultaneously executed. There’s no need to go back to court to get your name “officially” changed.  

If, however, you were unsure or decided to go back to your maiden name after your divorce was completed, you may need to file an application in court at a separate time and meet various legal requirements.

In both situations, once your name change is completed, you’ll need to update your name in relevant places. This includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Social Security card
  • Bank accounts
  • Passport
  • Employee information
  • Utilities 
  • Subscriptions (streaming service, magazines, etc.)
  • Memberships  

Get future-focused divorce support from the team at JB

Even if you’re at the beginning stages of your divorce, looking ahead can help you feel prepared and empowered instead of constantly wondering “What’s next?”—and your legal support is part of that process.

If you have questions about what your divorce process might look like, contact our team to schedule a coordination call.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.