During the divorce process you are spending time figuring out what is going to happen after the divorce judgment is signed. Generally speaking, the things that need to happen after the divorce do not happen automatically, i.e., you have to take steps to carry out the various provisions of the judgment.
Here are several things to keep in mind for after your divorce judgment is signed. This is not a complete list, but it does include the things that come up most frequently.
Signing Deeds. If you have a home and it was awarded to someone, the judgment probably requires that the person leaving the home signs a Bargain and Sale Deed transferring their interest in the home. Once the Deed is signed, it needs to be recorded with the county recorder’s office in the county where the property is located. The recording fee is usually $40 to $50.
IRS Form 8822. If you have moved or changed your name as a result of the divorce, you need to fill out IRS Form 8822 to notify the IRS of the change.
IRS Form 8332. Not to confused with IRS Form 8822, IRS Form 8332 needs to be filled out when you are releasing the right to claim a child for the dependency exemption. This can be filled out to release the exemption for a single year or for multiple years.
Closing Joint Credit Cards. Judgments usually provide that all joint credit cards will be closed. You can make sure this happens by calling the credit card company and filling out their applicable forms. One way to check and see if there are any joint credit accounts that are still open is to check your credit report. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus one time per year. There are many websites that will allow you to do this, but many of them will charge you. The government sponsors a website called www.annualcreditreport.com which allows you to get these reports free of charge.
Child Support. If your judgment requires that child support (or spousal support, for that matter) is to be paid by wage-withholding, you can speed up the process by filing an application for services with the Oregon Department of Justice. You can find a link to the application here. If you file this application it will speed the process up and you will begin receiving support sooner.
Life Insurance. If someone owes child support or spousal support, the judgment usually requires that they also maintain life insurance for as long as they owe support (including past-owed support). The basic idea is that if someone is relying on child support or spousal support and the person paying support dies, the person receiving support will be severely impacted financially. This concern is addressed by requiring the person paying support to maintain life insurance naming the support recipient as beneficiary (sometimes a trust is named as the beneficiary).
The person who is supposed to maintain the life insurance has to provide the other person with a copy of the policy. The person who is receiving support – and therefore is the beneficiary of the life insurance – has to send a certified copy of the judgment to the applicable life insurance company. The life insurance company must be instructed to provide notice to the beneficiary if the insured ever misses a payment or makes changes to the policy. There are very specific rules and requirements, so it is a good idea to talk to your attorney or review the applicable statutes before doing this (your attorney may do this for you).
Name Change. A divorce judgment can be used to change your name back to a name that you previously had (usually a maiden name). Your name is legally changed once the judge signs the divorce judgment. However, nobody other than you knows about it! It is your responsibility to inform all of the various institutions and entities that you are affiliated with that your name is now changed. These include, but are not limited to: the DMV, the IRS, the Social Security office, your employer, your bank, your gym, any financial company you work with, your utility companies, etc. Most of these places will accept a conformed copy of the judgment; some of these places may require a certified copy of the judgment. The Social Security office requires a certified copy of the judgment.
Transferring Retirement. Many divorce judgments require that retirement accounts be transferred either completely or partially from one person to the other. Since the retirement is being split pursuant to a divorce there will be no taxes and no 10% penalty at the time of the division as long as it is done correctly. It is important that you work with a qualified pension attorney to prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). QDROs are required to divide most types of accounts, including pensions, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, etc. A pension attorney will usually charge between $500 and $800 to prepare a QDRO and see the process through until the account is actually divided. This process can take several months or more. IRA’s do not require QDRO’s. You should be able to transfer retirement from an IRA by filling out the applicable form and providing a copy of your judgment. Note: Do not actually withdraw funds and give them to the other person. You have to follow the QDRO or IRA division process.
Health Insurance. A now-former spouse can only remain on a spouse’s health insurance through the end of the month in which the divorce is final. For example, if the judgment is signed on March 3rd, then the former spouse will usually be covered through the end of March. Note: Some employers will terminate coverage immediately so it is important to check with the employer before hand to determine if that is the case). If you are the person who was providing the insurance through your employer, you have to tell your employer as soon as the judgment has been signed. If you are the person who will be losing insurance, you need to decide what you are going to do about health insurance going forward. Depending on the situation, you may have the option to continue with the same health insurance company that you previously had for a period of time. There are different rules that will apply depending on the size of the company and your age at the time of the divorce. Further, there are very strict timelines associated with electing to continue to receive health insurance through a former spouse’s health insurer. Tip: You should try to determine how you are going to handle health insurance after you are divorced before the divorce is actually final.
Satisfaction of Judgment. If someone owes money to someone else, usually this shows up as a judgment lien against the person owing the money (there may be exceptions depending on how your judgment is structured). It is important for the person who owed the money that they are able to prove that they have paid the money owed. Once all of the money owed has been owed, the person who paid the money can request that they person who received the money signs a Satisfaction of Judgment. The Satisfaction of Judgment then gets filed at the applicable courthouse. The Satisfaction of Judgment serves as proof that payment has been made.
These are the most common things that need to be addressed following your divorce, but it is not an exhaustive list. Be sure that you review and understand the terms of your judgment. If you have questions about enacting the terms of your judgment, be sure to ask your lawyer or mediator.