The Colorado divorce decree just entered… so now what?
This is actually a very important phase of the divorce, and if you’re presented by an attorney, it may behoove you to keep your attorney retained to make sure all the loose ends are resolved satisfactorily.
Many divorce orders or agreements call for retirement accounts or pensions to be split up. Because retirement accounts are governed by Federal law, the entry of a special order for the division of a retirement account, known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is required. Some parties are so relieved that the divorce is over, they don’t follow through, or procrastinate, on hiring someone to draft the QDRO and filing the paperwork for the division of a retirement account with the court and plan. As with many other obligations, procrastination and lack of follow through can have drastic consequences. Some retirement accounts or pensions have time limits within which QDRO’s must be entered. Retirement accounts are valuable assets, and it’s important to take this next step to ensure that retirement accounts are divided as ordered or as agreed upon.
Regarding marital homes, or real estate from the marriage, many parties agree to have one spouse refinance to take the other party’s name off the mortgage and reimburse the other party for their share of the net equity value. If you are the party refinancing — follow through. Failure to follow through can lead to contempt motions, attorney fees, and headaches. Alternatively, if the parties agree to sell real estate and split the proceeds, delay can lead to paying a mortgage longer than necessary.
Upon the entry of a decree, the parties generally also have to close all joint bank and credit accounts. Failure to do so leaves you exposed to the other spouse running up debt in your name, removal of money from joint accounts that should have been divided equally, and credit consequences. While a lot of these issues can be remedied by contempt or enforcement actions, taking care of these obligations right after the issuance of the decree can save a lot of hassle.
For the wives who choose to take back their maiden names, you’ll need to get a certified copy of the Decree changing your name, and take that to both the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Office, banks, and wherever else you need for your name change to be recognized. Why not do this right away while the momentum is still there?
Regarding children’s issues, it is not uncommon for one parent to just let the other parent handle a majority of the school issues or doctor visits. Once a divorce is entered, the parent who wasn’t as involved is now in a position to step-up and get involved. Almost all parenting plans explicitly incorporate what is required by law; namely, that all parents have access to school and medical records of their minor children, as per C.R.S. 14-10-123.8. Upon the entry of a decree, it’s important for parents to go to their kids’ schools, doctors, dentists, etc., and let them know who you are and to be included on any communications, parent portals, and the like.
If you have a will, or life insurance policy, it will be important to update or amend so that your now ex-spouse is not listed as a beneficiary. While the courts will likely be able to fix a failure to do so, again, a lot of money and hassle can be avoided by updating these documents right away.
Ultimately, while a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage can feel like you’ve crossed the finish line, in many respects you are just entering the final stretch. Don’t let the decree lull you into inaction. Take the final steps to ensuring that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed so that your dissolved marriage really is a thing of the past. If you need help, contact a Denver divorce attorney to get the job done.