Prepare yourself, financially and emotionally. Every aspect of your financial life is going to change:
Your net income will decrease
Your assets will be slashed
You might have to find a new place to live
You will have to educate yourself on everything from taxes to estate planning
Clean up and Set up your financial accounts
Retitle your non-retirement assets once you obtain your divorce decree. That goes for all bank accounts, brokerage accounts and property.
Get your share of those assets into your own name or trust. You do this by simply opening up a new account and transferring your share into that new account in most cases. And don’t forget to get your name off of any joint accounts. (This is a simple process and your attorney will give you all the instructions. Don’t sweat it.)
Change your name (if you are into that). If you do that you’ll need a new driver’s license, Social Security Card and passport. While you’re at it, go to the DMV and change the registration to your vehicles if appropriate.
Your attorney will provide you with a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) which divvies up retirement assets. Present that document to the retirement account custodians and roll your share of their retirement dollars to your own retirement accounts.
If you are young and the ex is still working they (and you) may have 401ks. In that case, you’ll have to work with the plan administrator to get your share of that money. Just make sure you get instructions from your legal counsel and follow it. They will probably ask you to roll the money into an IRA but you may be better off rolling into your own 401k at your work. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of this.
Change the beneficiaries on all insurance policies and retirement accounts.
Cancel Joint Expenses
Remove your name from any joint credit cards and utilities. Some creditors might allow you to do this, others might not. To find out just call them and make the request. Push those creditors who won’t play ball and work with your attorney. Don’t stop until you are free and clear of any future expense your ex-spouse might create.
As part of the divorce settlement, you may get stuck with a portion of the joint debt. To make things worse, your divorce decree is only between yourself and your ex. That means creditors can come after you if your ex-doesn’t pay up for his or her portion of the joint debt.
Have all joints debts replaced with individual accounts as part of the divorce agreement? This way everyone is responsible for his or her side of the street.
If you are unable to have joint debts replaced with individual accounts, monitor those accounts and demand duplicate statements. That way you can make the payments just in case the ex-spouse spaces out. At least this way you’ll protect your credit score.
Set Up a Budgeting System
Your financial life as you previously knew it is over. Your income is vastly different after divorce and so are your expenses. Track your income and expenses on a monthly basis starting now. It is really not that difficult to do and is the single most important step you can take to gain and keep control over your financial life.