What to Do After Your Divorce

The trial is over, the documents are signed, and you and your spouse have gone your separate ways. You invested enormous amounts of time, money, and energy in obtaining your divorce. Where do you go from here?

What many married couples fail to realize is that, rather than your life continuing as it had sans your spouse, divorce changes every aspect of your life. Now that the issues that seemed to drag on forever during the divorce are resolved, a whole host of new issues may have popped up. Mostly likely, you’re faced with twice the mortgage you had before or half the living space. Your personal property has probably been cut in half. Your savings have most likely been depleted and you credit rating has dropped. You now have to arrange for child care just to make a trip to the grocery store. How do you go about constructing your new life?

Take Some Time to Heal

No matter how miserable your marriage may have been, divorce is an emotionally taxing process, particularly when it drags on month after month and year after year. Once the final divorce decree is entered, you’re entitled to a little selfish indulgence. After thinking of yourself as part of a couple for the course of your marriage, it may take some time to get to know yourself as an individual. Many recently divorced parties find refuge and renewal in long vacations, art or pottery classes, or volunteering to work with charitable organizations. The important thing is to spend time doing something that takes the focus off of what you’ve just been through.  Spending time with loved ones, seeing a different part of the world, learning a new skill can all help you began to discover who you are separate and apart from a “former spouse.”

Re-Read Your Divorce Decree

In the first few months after your divorce, you may want to periodically review the terms of your divorce to ensure that you don’t have any deadlines hanging over your head and to make sure that your former spouse is following through on his or her end of the deal. Often, divorce decrees set for deadlines for the closing of joint accounts, the refinancing of a home, and the resolving of a host of other financial issues. Make sure you know by what date you are required to complete certain tasks. If you are required to transfer titles, property, or information to your former spouse, do so in a timely manner. By the same token, if you note that your spouse has failed to follow through on his or her obligations after a friendly reminder, contract your attorney. It is essential to convey to your former spouse that you expect them to abide by the terms of the divorce. By ensuring that you follow through on your financial obligations, you can help maintain as amicable relationship as possible with your former spouse.

Some things you made need to do immediately following the entry of your divorce decree are as follows:

Financial Obligations

Make sure your name or your former spouse’s name is removed from the mortgage and the title to the marital residence, if necessary;

  • Close joint bank accounts;
  • Close joint credit cards;
  • Transfer any car titles, if necessary.
  • Obligations Involving the Children:
  • Make sure your child support order is registered with a state enforcement agency;
  • If child support is to be withheld from the payor parent’s pay check, make sure his or her employer has a copy of the child support order;
  • Provide schools, daycares, and babysitters with a copy of the custody decree;
  • Ensure that the primary custodial parent is noted by schools, doctor’s offices, and on emergency contact information,
  • Estate Planning:
  • Modify any wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living wills as necessitated by the divorce;
  • Change beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance policies as necessitated by the divorce;

Name Changes

    The simplest way to resume the use of your former name is to include the name change in your divorce decree. Once a judge has signed the decree, simply taking a copy of your divorce judgment with you to various state and federal agencies will make restoring your former name on your state and federal documents relatively easy. If you did not include your name change in you divorce judgment, you will most likely have to return to court to ask permission to resume the use of your former name.

Changing The Children’s Names

Changing the names of children is difficult and typically must be done with the consent of both biological parents. A judge will typically not allow you to change the names of your children simply because you’ve resumed the use of your former name and want the children to share your last name, if the other parent objects. Rather, in order to change the children’s name against the wishes of the other parent, the court will require proof that NOT changing the children’s names is harmful to the children. Some examples where court’s have allowed name changes for the children are when the other parent’s parental rights have been terminated or when the other parent has been convicted of severe abuse or neglect of the children.

If you have been granted permission to change your name or the children’s names:

  • Have your name changed on your driver’s license , passport, and social security card;
  • Ensure that your bank, insurance providers, doctor’s offices, and investment companies have a copy of the court order allowing you to change your name;
  • Change your children’s names on their birth certificates, school information, and health care information, if allowed by the court.

If You Have Children, Begin Rebuilding Your Relationship with the Other Parent

Obviously, two people divorce because they no long wish to be married to each other, live together, or spend time together. However, where children are involved, you’re stuck with each other for the rest of your children’s lives, whether you like it or not. As the children grow, child support obligations and visitation schedules are replaced with graduations, weddings, and baby showers.  Assuming you both love and value your children, you’ll be seeing a lot more of each other than you probably think.

Where it’s not emotionally or physically dangerous for yourself or the children, begin to change your relationship with your former spouse from one of acrimony to one of harmony. Though it may take a while for the pain of the divorce and the reasons for it to fade, there’s no reason that two mature adults can’t put their personal differences aside in front of the children. Promise yourself you won’t speak unkindly of your former spouse in front of your children. Remind your children of mother’s day, father’s day, or your ex’s birthday. Make sure that your ex is included and invited to birthday parties, music recitals, and sporting events. If it’s difficult to communicate with your former spouse verbally, keep him or her in the loop with a bi-weekly newsletter or email all about the kids and their activities. Over time, you may find that going through the generous motions has helped ease the pain and that you and your ex can have an amicable, if not loving, relationship based on mutual love for your children.


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