Tying Up Loose Ends in a Divorce

If you’re headed toward divorce, you may have a rocky road ahead. Not necessarily because anything particularly bad will happen, but because it’s a highly-involved process. On the financial front, there’s a lot to address and resolve before the judge can sign off on the dotted line and make your divorce final.

Once someone has been through their divorce and made it out the other end of the tunnel, they can really feel like they’ve been through the wringer, emotionally and financially. They feel a huge sigh of relief and they’re just ready to relax, focus on their family, and move on to the next chapter of their life. But the truth of the matter is, it’s rarely that simple.

Generally, after a divorce is finalized, there will almost always be some loose ends to tie up. And no matter how much you want to look the other way and wash your hands of it, you can’t. The best way to have a positive outcome in your divorce is to walk into it with your eyes wide open and that includes after the divorce is official.

After Your Divorce is Official

There will definitely be some things to think about after your divorce is final. Here is a list so you can start preparing mentally:

  • Think about your beneficiary designations on your bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and estate planning documents. If your ex’s name is still on these documents, you may want to change those right away.
  • If you have any credit card accounts that list both spouses or domestic partners, we advise closing them immediately and opening a new credit card account with just your name on it.
  • As soon as your divorce is final, notify your employer so your income tax withholding status can be changed. If your ex is the named beneficiary on any of your employee benefits, be sure to remove their name.
  • If your judgement says that only one spouse will own an automobile that you both used to own, you’ll need to fill out a Department of Motor Vehicles Form REG 138, Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. This form allows you to change the title of the motor vehicle. However, be sure to make a copy for your records.
  • This is IMPORTANT: If you happen to file joint tax returns with your former spouse or domestic partner and the state or the IRS says you’re responsible for taxes or penalties but the divorce decree says your spouse will pay it, you may be entitled to “innocent spouse relief.” Ask us how this is handled on the state and federal levels.

Be Prepared to Go Back to Court

There’s one thing we want you to know right now. If your case involves child custody, child support, or spousal support, there is a very good possibility that you’ll have to go back to court in the future. Why? Because, a lot can change in a person’s life after a divorce.

Whenever a child custody, child support, or spousal support order is issued as a part of a divorce, it’s very common for one or both spouses to head back to court for a modification. These are called “post judgement modifications.” So, even if you feel like it’s all finally over, don’t be surprised if you do have to go back to court in the future.

Here are some common reasons why someone might go back to court after their divorce is final:

  • A man is ordered to pay spousal support and his wife remarries. In this case, he goes back to court to terminate the spousal support.
  • A 13-year-old boy has been living with his mother, but he doesn’t get along with her new husband. So, the mom and dad decide it’s best that he move in with his dad. In this situation, the child custody and child support orders will need to be changed.
  • A woman has been receiving spousal support for some time but she’s failed to look for a job and become self-supportive, so the husband petitions the court to terminate the spousal support order.
  • A woman has been paying spousal support to her former husband. She loses her job and takes another one that pays her 25% less, so she asks the court to reduce her spousal support payments to her former husband.
  • A mother has been the primary custodial parent for three kids but she develops a substance abuse problem. The father seeks custody of the kids and asks that she start paying him child support instead of the other way around.
  • A man is arrested for a white-collar crime and is convicted and sent to federal prison. He petitions the family court to reduce his child support payments while he’s in prison.

Can I Change Things Without Court?

If you want to change something that has to do with your children, such as child custody, child support, or visitation, you don’t necessarily have to go to family court to do it. If you get along well enough with your former spouse or domestic partner, you can enter into a new agreement about any of these child-related matters with the help of an attorney from our firm. However, we would get the agreement in writing and file it with the court.

Related: Changes to Spousal Support Laws

If you’re looking for divorce representation or legal assistance with a post-divorce matter, we can help. We invite you to contact our Los Angeles divorce firm today.