Divorce can be devastating, no matter the circumstances. But it can be especially challenging if your ex-spouse was the one who handled all of the important financial decisions for the household. Having gone through this scenario myself, I’ve made it my mission to help other women navigate their post-divorce financial world; providing compassion and guidance as they start a new chapter of their lives. If you’ve recently gone through a divorce, make sure all your bases are covered with this post-divorce financial checklist.
Divorce Survival Guide:
I provide all my clients with this survival guide to cover both the financial as well as emotional aspects of post-divorce life. It covers four main points: prioritizing self-care, nourishing your soul, building your professional team, and finding your direction.
All passwords should be changed as soon as possible. Be sure to make it something your ex-spouse will not be able to guess.
Update titles & deeds:
This involves understanding who owns what (houses, cars, boats, etc.) prior to divorce, and updating it to match the requirements of the divorce decree. If the assets are not properly titled, you will need to start the process of changing them, which usually involves the county recorder or local DMV.
Change your last name:
It may be a hassle, but changing your last name is a necessary step post-divorce, especially if required as part of a divorce decree or court order. Some of the items you will have to change include your Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, bank accounts, credit cards, utility companies, and insurance policies. You can make the changes on your own or use a website like Easy Name Change.
Get health insurance coverage:
COBRA coverage will last for 36 months after divorce; beyond that, you can research policies offered through Obamacare or a private insurance group.
Develop a post-divorce spending plan:
Secure your credit:
This step is very important as it could impact your ability to use credit in the future. Close all joint credit cards and open new ones in your name, making sure that anything you close out, you fully pay off. Unlink your old credit cards from any online accounts or automatic payments like Amazon, Target, utility bills, etc. Pull your credit report a few months after your divorce is finalized using a free service like Annual Credit Report.com to make sure there is nothing you missed.
Close joint accounts:
Close all joint bank and brokerage accounts and open new ones in your name only. You will probably need a divorce decree outlining how the funds should be split before doing this.
Review home & mortgage:
This item will definitely depend on a divorce decree. One spouse may be removed from the title by signing a quitclaim deed, or you may have to hire a Realtor and prepare it for sale.
Some divorce decrees will mandate insurance coverage on the life of the spouse who is paying child support and alimony. This ensures that payments will have coverage in the form of a death benefit. Ideally, the support recipient should be the owner of the policy and pay all the premiums. If there is no life insurance mandate in the decree, you can still take out insurance on the life of the support payer. Avoid using employer life insurance since it will lapse if the ex-spouse leaves their current employer.
Property & casualty insurance:
Update your coverage as necessary and make sure only what you own after the divorce has coverage.
Split retirement accounts & pensions:
Employer-sponsored retirement plans and pensions must be split using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Only a divorce decree is necessary to split an IRA.
Update your estate plan:
In addition to wills, trusts, and power-of-attorney documents, be sure to update beneficiaries on all accounts and policies as they will supersede the will and trust. If not complete, there is a chance your ex-spouse could inherit everything if you pass.
Check with your accountant to determine if you’ll need to make quarterly estimated tax payments or change your tax withholding from your paycheck, since tax brackets are different when filing single versus married. Your dependent exemption may have changed as well.
Update your retirement plan:
Your assets and savings have probably changed along with your goals, so make sure you’re still on the right track for retirement.
Evaluate current investments:
This step is necessary to determine if your investments are still appropriate based on your new circumstances and risk tolerance.
Need Help With Your Post-Divorce Financial Checklist?
If you are navigating divorce and need help with these steps, I would love to hear from you! My colleagues and I at Calamita Wealth Management can help you feel empowered and confident in your post-divorce financial decisions! Schedule an introductory phone call using our online calendar or reach out to us at (704) 276-7325 to begin today.
Catherine Dematte Burawski is a senior life planner and divorce specialist for women at Calamita Wealth Management, an independent, fee-only wealth management company. When Catherine experienced a life-changing divorce and the resulting financial disarray, she felt like her life was ruined. But through the process, she realized that what she thought was ruin was actually a defining moment. Now Catherine uses her experience and passion to help other women navigate divorce transition. With the help of the Calamita Wealth Management team’s comprehensive financial planning services, Catherine, a Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional℠ professional, provides compassionate emotional support and the guidance necessary for a seamless and empowering divorce transition. She loves to help women see the possibilities of life and move forward with excitement and hope.
Catherine is a Pennsylvania native who has called Lake Tahoe, CA, home for the last two decades. She and her daughter, Mia, enjoy skiing, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, river and lake swimming, music, dancing, boxing, and just about any adventure that comes their way (including a future trip to Italy)! To learn more about Catherine, connect with her on LinkedIn.