There’s so much to do when you are getting a divorce. Stuff is bound to fall through the cracks because in addition to there being mountains of paperwork to review, bills to pay, life to continue at full speed with work, kids, etc., there are also changes you need to attend to for your own personal life.
I came up with a few reminders in case you’re overwhelmed, because I know that I am at this point. My analytical mind began running last night, thinking of all the changes I have to make now that the divorce is final. It’s exhausting quite frankly and looks like a ton of work. I think it may be harder for women because of name changes in addition to closing all joint accounts, opening new accounts in our own names (if you already haven’t done that) and the plethora of legal documents that have to be signed. Not to mention all the changes in your financial matters that come with having a new budget and not a married joint fund. And then there’s the legality of child support and alimony that you have to keep track of because nobody will do it for you.
I hope my suggestion list helps you while you are going through the divorce. Maybe it will remind you of things you hadn’t thought of yet. If I’ve forgotten anything, please share below so that we can have a complete list for the next divorcee to use if need be!
In no particular order (and no, I’m not a lawyer):
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: I know this is probably a small thought to you at this point, but it’s important. You can no longer use your spouse as the person to call ICE (in case of emergency). If you have an adult child, then you could have them, but if not, who will you choose? Hopefully you have a responsible family member or friend whom you can trust. This goes for HEPPA too when you are at the doctor’s office etc.
CHANGING YOUR NAME: I have friends who chose to return to their maiden names. Their advice was to do it when you are divorcing and not afterwards because it’s more work. So decide now and follow through with your change if that’s what you want. I have chosen to keep my married name because I wanted the same last name as my children. But that’s personal preference. I think you should do whatever YOU are comfortable with for yourself and your family.
WILLS.: When you divorce, your will needs to be changed. If you don’t have one already, please get one! But now you have to incur more attorney fees to change the beneficiaries on your will, if your spouse was your beneficiary. If your children are under a certain age (I think it’s 18), then you must choose an executor to take care of the money until your children can inherit it. You can set up a trust fund so that they can only get the money after age 21. But you need to choose someone to manage the trust fund so choose wisely.
GUARDIANSHIP: If you have children under the age of 18, you need to think about this and understand how your divorce agreement reads. If you ‘share’ custody with your EX, then he will most likely have guardianship over the children if you die. However, if that’s not the case, you may need to appoint a guardian for your children until they reach age 18. Check with a trusted lawyer to see what you need for your specific circumstances.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: Please get one if you don’t have one already! But if you are like me, your spouse was your POA (Power Of Attorney) because you shared your finances because you were married. This has to be changed now since he is no longer your trusted spouse nor does he have anything to do with your finances. A POA ceases when you die, so the person you choose will not be able to help after that. This will change to be the executor of your will’s responsibility.
LIVING WILL: Now you have to think who in your family/friends you would trust to take care of you medically if you were incapacitated? Would you want a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and at what point would you choose to be let go? Who can you trust to follow your wishes? This is hard for me. My Ex and I knew what we both wanted and had agreed to have the courage to do what the other person requested. Luckily we never had to experience following the directives of a living will. But I have had to do it for a loved one and it wasn’t easy. So make sure that the person you choose is willing to follow your instructions and be respectful of them. It’s not for the faint of heart by any means.
LIFE INSURANCE: Here’s another document where you have to change the beneficiary because if you had your spouse and you are getting divorced, it’s unlikely you would leave your life insurance money to him instead of to your children. Again, if you don’t have already have a life insurance policy, please get one. You don’t want to leave your loved ones with your debts or with having to pay for your funeral.
FUNERAL: If by age 50 you haven’t thought of this, now’s the time. Maybe you and your spouse discussed it at some point, but you’re on your own now and it’s time to let someone else know what you think you’d like. A pre-planned funeral may be how you choose to deal with this, but if not, you could simply write your desires and leave it in a safe place and let the person who is in charge of your affairs know where to find the information if/when it is needed. Think about what you want as well. Do you want a wake? Do you want a religious ceremony and if you do, then where? Have you thought about who you would like to speak at your funeral? What songs would you want played? What readings would you like recited? How do you picture your funeral?
BURIAL: If you were married for a long time, you may have already had a plot next to your spouse to be buried in when the time came. Now you no longer will be buried next to him because you are divorced. Your children will not have their parents buried next to each other in the family plot. You need to get a new place or find one if you didn’t already have one. Also, you’ll need to figure out how to sell your plot or buy the plot from your spouse if you are choosing to not be buried side by side. In addition, you should decide what you want to be buried in and where. Do you want to be cremated? Where would you like your body to rest? Is it important for your family to be able to visit your gravesite? Would you like your name and birth/death dates on the stone marker?
SAFE: Please tell me you have a safe in your home where you keep your important documents. If you don’t, please get one and let someone know where to find the safe and the key and combination to open it. Keeping all of your important papers in one safe place is important. When we were married, it was different because we shared the information with our spouse. But now, as divorced women, we need to tell the kids if they are old enough or a trusted friend/family member so that if case of an emergency, a responsible adult can help.
I know this sounds like a lot of work and it is. But this is your life and you are the captain of your own ship. If you were like me, you and your husband together made the decisions. Now you may feel adrift. But you aren’t alone. Take it one step at a time. You can do this! I know you can!