Matrimonial and Family Law Blog

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Avoid Common Divorce Mistakes with A Simple Divorce Checklist

Divorce is a complex process that takes time, energy and organization. Working with an experienced family law lawyer can help you get through the most difficult parts, but getting yourself organized can help things go more smoothly and may even help you save some money while you’re at it. We’ve provided this helpful checklist to help you do just that.

1. Get your ducks in a row. Taking these measures before your divorce or early on in the divorce process can prevent later regrets.

  • Prepare for malicious destruction. Get your photos, heirlooms and other irreplaceable personal objects out of the house and into a safe location.
  • Make a copy of all essential documents, as they may grow legs and walk away once the divorce starts. Talk with your divorce lawyer about a checklist of the materials you need to find, copy and store somewhere other than in the home.
  • Guard your privacy. Create a new email address and change the passwords for all your online accounts – social media, email, shopping and other financial accounts – to keep them safe from your spouse. And while we are on the subject of social media accounts, do not post anything about your spouse or the divorce on social media. Your spouse can use your social media photos and postings against you in court.
  • Get a copy of your current credit report. Your credit report will help you generate a checklist of all accounts associated with your name, so you can make sure your lawyer deals with them in the divorce.

2. Be savvy about insurance.

  • Many states prohibit making any changes to existing insurance policies and retirement accounts while the divorce is pending.
  • As soon as it is legal for you to do so, change the beneficiary on your life insurance.
  • Check on the health insurance. You will need health insurance after the divorce, and staying on your soon-to-be former spouse’s policy through COBRA is usually exorbitantly expensive. If you will have less generous coverage after the divorce, go ahead and get any medical and dental procedures done while you still have the coverage. If you do not use it, you will lose it.

3. Death and Taxes … and Retirement

  • As soon as the divorce is complete, make a new will. While many states automatically nullify existing wills once people divorce, to make sure your assets and treasured items do not go to your former spouse, be sure and write a new will.
  • Change the beneficiary on your retirement and other accounts as soon as it is legal for you to do so.
  • Do not assume things will happen automatically. Either the judge will split up your assets and debts, or you will reach an agreement on who gets which assets and debts. Regardless of the way it happens, you will have to take additional steps to transfer these accounts and assets. Have terms written into your divorce papers that your ex has a certain number of days to refinance loans to remove your name from the indebtedness on assets she receives. Have her name taken off of the accounts that you receive in the divorce.
  • Splitting retirement accounts requires a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Getting the QDRO approved can take many months after the divorce.

4. Parenting will not be the same.

  • Talk with your lawyer about the parenting issues that are critical to you. In addition to the parenting time schedule, your parenting agreement should address issues like how you will communicate with your child when he is with the other parent, what happens when one of you cannot exercise scheduled parenting time, and the access you will each have to educational and medical information about your child. Your lawyer has handled divorces for all types of family dynamics and can advise you on issues that may be a high priority for you.
  • In the past, your children were always in the family home. You came home from work, and they were there. All their clothes, electronics, sports equipment, school books and other personal items were in one spot. Now they will be in two different locations, your residence and your spouse’s place. To make sure you keep up with the new schedule and pick up the kids and drop them off when you are supposed to, put a big one year calendar of the plan on the wall. No child wants to be forgotten.
  • Writing the schedule on the calendar will also give your children predictability, which will be comforting for them as they face the upheaval a divorce wreaks on the children. They are resilient, but providing a visual schedule will support them in adjusting to the transitions.

If you are considering a divorce, you do not have to do so alone. Talk to an experienced divorce attorney. Schedule a consult with one of our New York divorce lawyers to protect yourself and your future.


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