How a divorce is finalized is that your settlement agreement or trial result is entered into a divorce decree, which is called a judgment of divorce. This makes the terms of your settlement or trial result into an order by the court that must be obeyed by both parties.
Although it is a relief to get your final judgment of divorce, there are still steps you will need to take to make your divorce final. These include taking the actions ordered in that decree and making other changes to end your legal relationship with your ex. Here are some common ones:
Complete the property division laid out in the judgment. For example, if you are dividing retirement accounts or pensions, you will need to present your qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to the plan administrator. This QDRO is a court order that should have been provided as part of your final judgment. Make sure the QDRO is accepted by the plan administrator, as without a QDRO they do not have authority to make any transfers.
Purchase any insurance required by the judgment, such as life insurance or health insurance for your kids.
Close any joint accounts. A joint account allows both members to spend freely. Get bank and credit card accounts in your own name.
Change your beneficiary designations. You have probably assigned a beneficiary to your retirement accounts, life insurance and some other accounts. If this was your ex, you will need to change it. If you do not, your ex will inherit the funds if you die.
Update your estate plan, healthcare proxy and power of attorney. Most people designate their spouse as the person to take over if they become incapacitated and leave most or all of their assets to their spouse in a will or estate plan. You need to update these documents right away.
If possible, get yourself or your ex off the title to your home and mortgage. If your divorce judgment grants the house to your ex, you don’t want to remain financially responsible in case your ex defaults on the mortgage. Likewise, if you’re keeping the house you don’t want your ex to continue to have title. Be aware that you may have to refinance to achieve this.
Change your car title, registration and insurance. Remove your ex’s name from these and make sure they are no longer an allowed driver.
Complete any name change you’re considering. Provide a certified copy of your judgment to the Social Security Administration, the DMV and the State Department, if you have a passport. Then work on changing your name on other accounts like your library card and insurance policies.