There is a great deal of advice about dealing with your emotions and the transition to being single after a divorce (e.g., 101 Things You Should Do the First Year of Your Divorce). In addition to dealing with those very important issues, it is important to note that just because you have the legal stuff associated with divorce behind you, there remain legal actions you need to take to protect yourself and your family.
We list certain steps you should take here. Some of these can be done as soon as you legally separate and some you should do after you are divorced. If you or your spouse have obtained a Divorce from Bed & Board, some rights such as the “year’s allowance” are revoked by operation of law.
Steps to take after you separate
- Revoke any Power of Attorney (POA), Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA), and Living Will in favor of your spouse. Prepare and execute new POA, HCPOA, and Living Will in favor of someone you trust with your most important financial and health care decisions.
- Change your bank accounts to Payable on Death (POD) accounts to a new beneficiary.
- If you move, notify all of your creditors of your change of address. Change your address on your bank accounts and checks.
- Change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy, pension, 401(k), IRA, etc.
Note: some companies will not allow you to do this without the consent of your spouse or until you are divorced.
- If you have children, make sure you obtain a child custody and child support court order to protect you rights. Also, update emergency contact information at the doctor, school, etc. as needed.
- Consult with an attorney concerning spousal support and property division.
- If you have not been the person primarily handling the family finances, you should consider meeting with a financial advisor to help you budget your money and plan for the future.
- Update your tax withholdings with your employer.
Steps to take after you obtain an absolute divorce
- Execute new Last Will & Testament. In North Carolina, a will is not automatically revoked upon a divorce but the provisions in favor of your former spouse are revoked. This can have unintended and negative effects on the distribution of your property. It is best to execute a new will as soon as possible. See N.C. GEN. STAT. § 31-5.4.
- Notify your auto insurer of any changes in automobile drivers, ownership, and addresses.
- If you change your name (such as by reverting to your maiden name) as a result of the divorce, notify all of your creditors of the change. Also, notify the Social Security Administration of your name change and obtain a new card. You will also need a new driver’s license and to change the name on bank accounts, checks, etc.
- Execute all necessary COBRA documents to ensure continued health insurance coverage, as appropriate. Once you are divorced, your former spouse cannot continue to insure you as he/she no longer has an insurable interest in you.
- Keep a copy of your Divorce Judgment. You will probably need it in the future.
- Take all actions as required by your Separation Agreement & Property Settlement and/or your Equitable Distribution Order including ensuring that your name has been removed from all joint debts and loans that are no longer your responsibility.
- Make sure that the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is entered and implemented, if required under the ED Order.
- You can revisit child support when the parties income changes substantially or every three years.
These steps are intended as general advice for individuals in the State of North Carolina. It is not applicable to other jurisdictions. You should consult with your attorney regarding the facts of your specific situation to see if you should take different actions at different times.