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You’ve gone through mediation or Settlement Facilitation. You reached a settlement with your soon-to-be-ex. You think you’re done and want to celebrate. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s still a long road ahead of you.

Post-Mediation or Settlement Facilitation Pleadings

If you settled your case at mediation or Settlement Facilitation, the next step is to draft the pleadings that memorialize the agreements reached. The four most common final pleadings are:

  • Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) that addresses dividing up the property and debts, spousal support and child support. There is also a lot of language that attorneys call “boilerplate” that you should go over with your lawyer carefully. It’s like the fine print in any contract.
  • If there are children involved, the Parenting Plan gets drafted that deals with legal custody (decision-making) and visitation. Some lawyers put the child support provisions in the Parenting Plan, keeping all child-related provisions in one document; other lawyers put child support in the MSA, keeping all money-related provisions in one document.
  • Next, the Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage is prepared, which includes the legal name change if the wife wants it.
  • Lastly, if there are pensions or 401k / 403b plans being allocated, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) needs to be prepared, sent to the Plan Administrator for review & pre-approval, then finalized and sent back for implementation. Note that government employee retirement plans and Military retirement plans have their own special forms of orders required to allocate them between ex-spouses. If there are IRAs or investment accounts (other than a pension, 401k or 403b plan), then Letters of Instruction need to be sent to the investment account holder to divvy them up.

Other Paperwork

In addition to the court pleadings, other paperwork is involved, changing:

  • Deed to the marital residence
  • Beneficiaries of life insurance policies
  • Beneficiaries of retirement accounts for the portion retained by each spouse
  • Payable on Death (POD) designations for bank accounts
  • Transfer on Death (TOD) designations on investment accounts
  • Authorized users of joint credit card accounts
  • Car insurance policies
  • Titles to vehicles
  • Medical, dental and vision insurance policies

This isn’t a comprehensive list of the post-divorce paperwork, but it’s a good start.

Name Change

One of the biggest pains is going through all the hoops for a legal name change. Start with getting a new Social Security card. You will need a certified copy of the Final Decree plus whatever documents the Social Security Administration requires, which are listed on the website www.ssa.gov. Then get a new driver’s license. You will need to bring your Marriage Certificate and all the other documents the Motor Vehicle Department now requires to comply with the federal Real Identity Act.

Once you have the new Social Security card and driver’s license, change your name on bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and every other account in which you have an interest. If you have a Passport and Global Entry Card, you will have to get new ones. Change your name at the Post Office. Remember other places such as Netflix, utilities, cell phone companies, car insurance plans, etc. If the list seems daunting, it is, but be persistent.

Marital Residence

If the house is to be sold, both of you will need to cooperate with the realtor to sign the paperwork to list it for sale, make any necessary repairs and pay for them, keep the house neat and clean for showings, agree on price changes, and eventually sign the documents to complete the sale.

If one spouse is refinancing the mortgage and buying out the other spouse’s interest in the home, similar cooperation in dealing with the paperwork is necessary.

Estate Planning

You should update your Will, Trust, and medical & financial Powers of Attorney after the divorce is final. If you have minor children, you should try to agree with your ex-spouse on who would serve as the legal guardian of the children in case both of you die before they reach the age of majority.

Conclusion

As you can see, reaching settlement is not the same thing as being finished with your divorce. Take a deep breath and be patient but persistent in completing the paperwork required to unwind your joint lives.

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