New Jersey Post-Divorce Need to Know’s: Steps Toward Securing Your Future

So you have entered the home stretch of divorce proceedings, ironed out remaining sources of disagreement, and the presiding judge has entered your final divorce decree. The next logical question is: what now? Although your divorce is technically over, there are a number of outstanding issues that you need to address in order to move forward as a solitary, as opposed to legally married, individual in New Jersey. This week’s article is dedicated to providing you with the post-divorce need to know’s that will prepare you to move on with your life after your divorce is finalized.

Common issues that may arise after your divorce result from the legal change of your name and personal information on important accounts. For example, your name, your address, and your marital status will need to be updated on a variety of significant accounts, forms, documents, etc. in order to ensure that you are adequately represented moving forward. Some of the most immediately salient updates that you need to make include:

  • Your driver’s license and registration
  • Social security card
  • Credit card(s)
  • Insurance accounts: automobile, health, life, and homeowner’s (if applicable)
  • Debit card and bank account information (checking and savings): you will likely need to close joint accounts that existed during your marriage

Perhaps more easy to overlook are the longer-term matters that do not directly impact your daily living but are still essential for a secure and successful future. These may include retirement accounts such as pensions, IRA’s, 401K’s, life insurance, wills, and social security. One common situation which your divorce attorney can handle for you is transferring a financial interest from a retirement plan. Typically, this is accomplished through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. After your divorce is finalized, you may need your lawyer to file a QDRO in order to receive the share of your former spouse’s retirement plan to which you are entitled. When using this mechanism, the spouse who is enrolled in the retirement plan is known as the “participant,” while the spouse who is to receive a portion of the plan is referred to as the “alternate payee.”

Other longer-term matters that may need to be addressed involve your will, power of attorney, and beneficiaries on policies such as life insurance. If you and your spouse had a joint will during your marriage, you will need to have a new will drawn up to reflect your sole property and those to whom you will bequeath your financial interests if you should pass away. Similarly, your spouse may have had power of attorney during your marriage, meaning he or she could sign documents in your stead and make certain decisions on your behalf. Perhaps the most well-known instance of power of attorney involves healthcare, should a medical situation arise that leaves you unable to make your own decisions regarding treatment. After your divorce, it is important to modify your wishes in these matters and if necessary, to appoint a new person who will have medical power of attorney for you going forward.

Lastly, you will need to arrange a meeting with your accountant and/or financial adviser to address tax and other financial considerations. For example, your accountant will need to know that you are now filing taxes as a single person and will need to adjust your exemptions, deductions, etc. to reflect that fact. Also, your income will most likely change, whether that involves alimony payments or changing from a two-income household to a one-income individual filer. In addition, if you plan to invest in stocks, bonds, or other options, your financial adviser will need to develop a new account for you or shift your investments to reflect your new assets. Overall, your steps following divorce will go a long way to facilitate a successful transition. Your divorce attorney should serve as a guide both during and after your divorce to ensure that your interests are thoroughly protected.

If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey, have recently initiated the divorce process, or are seeking a post-divorce modification, feel free to contact my offices anytime at (908) 481-4625 for an initial consultation. I am always available to answer your questions.