Going through the divorce process can be a long and difficult endeavor. There are many life changes that occur that are not necessarily limited to the ending of a legal relationship. As you approach the conclusion of your case, there are some things to consider to ease your transition into your new status.
Below, you will find some opportunities to help you re-establish your life. This guide is meant as a starting point and is not a replacement for sound legal advice that is tailored to your specific situation. Best of luck in creating your new normal.
Bradley L. Schencker, Attorney at Law
If at any time, your former spouse had access to your current residence, you should contact a locksmith to change the locks. If you rent your residence, you may need to seek permission from your landlord in order to have this work completed. Home alarm companies should be contacted and information reviewed for what persons are authorized to make changes to your account. Any distress codes and access codes should be changed for your safety. If your home has a safe, you should update this code as well.
Changing of your passwords is highly recommended. Once again, now that this process is complete, it is highly recommended that you run a spyware check on any devices that you currently use. Technology is constantly changing but most of the name brand anti-virus software on the market also include a spyware program. If you are a Comcast customer, a program is currently offered at no cost through their website. After you have conducted a spyware check of your tablets, laptops, desktops and mobile devices, you should change your passwords to protect yourself from future disclosures of personal information. There are programs available such as LastPass and 1Password that can change all of your passwords to a heavily encrypted and unique to each website option but the office, as with all technology, does not endorse any one company or product.
At the beginning of the divorce process you may have been advised to obtain a single credit report so that you could review any accounts open in your name that you may not have been aware of and identify accounts in which you were an authorized user only. At this time, it is important that you pull your credit report once again and review it to confirm that no new lines of credit have been opened in your name without your knowledge, and gather a list of all creditors that will require contact in the coming days.
WHAT IS ON A CREDIT REPORT
On every credit report, each creditor is required to list their name, their address, phone number and other identifying information, such as balances and account numbers. At this time, you should contact each creditor and provide them your new name (should you be changing your name), new address (if you are moving), and confirm whether this is a joint account and whether you have any authorized users on the account. Closing old credit lines may be detrimental to your credit score, so you should review options with each creditor. If you find any inaccuracies or accounts opened that you were unaware of, you should contact the police and my office to assist you.
CREDIT REPORT RESOURCES
The resource that we recommend for obtaining your credit report is annualcreditreport.com. Please note that this is a website operated in conjunction with the federal government that provides you your credit report from the three major reporting bureaus annually at no charge to you. I recommend that you also register for CreditKarma. This site provides free credit reports and credit monitoring on a monthly basis at no cost. This site provides credit card offers in order to provide this service at no cost to the consumer but no participation in those offers is required.
CREDIT CARDS/DEBIT CARDS
Immediately contact each credit card company and request that a new credit card with a new number be issued to you. Even if you intend to change your name in the future and this step will require the issuance of a new credit card, this action should be taken immediately to avoid recurring charges or inappropriate use without your authorization. If you participate in a flex spending account through your employer, please do not forget to change that credit card number as well.
Contact every bank you have a working relationship with and provide them your new information. Many banks will suggest that you change your account numbers due to your new status. Many banks will require you to come in person and present a copy of your Judgment. Safety deposit box access and key location should be reviewed as well.
Now that your divorce process is complete, many employers require that a change of status form be submitted or that you at least inform your human resources department. Please review your employment handbook for the proper steps to take with your company. At the very least, you should inquire with your employer if there is a form to update your emergency contact designation.
With your employer, you should also update your insurance information and coverage options. If you were covered under your spouse’s insurance, you may be able to obtain COBRA coverage under their policy. Most employers, however, view divorce as a life changing event that will allow you a limited opportunity for open enrollment due to your new status. This period of open enrollment can be as short as fourteen (14) days but is usually no longer than thirty (30) days. Please act quickly as this opportunity is calculated from the date of the entry of the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Within your Judgment, other terms of insurance responsibility may be outlined and must be adhered to. If you participate in a 401(k) plan through your employer, you should immediately contact them to update your designation of beneficiary. Every 401(k) provider has their own form and process but it is crucial that this be completed as soon as possible.
This year, you will be filing your taxes individually and not with your former spouse. In preparation for this, it is strongly recommended that you contact a tax professional who can advise you as to the ramification and expected tax consequences of your divorce. This professional may also advise you as to the proper number of exemptions to be taken on your taxes and deducted from your payroll. This change may also need to be provided to your employer within a specific period of time based upon company policy.
Please contact your life insurance company and review your beneficiaries listed to properly adhere to any terms within the Judgment or to effectuate a modification to the parties that you designate.
With all governmental identification, the process for changing your information is interwoven. Depending on who you speak to at each governmental body, they may require different proof to effectuate an adjustment of your requested identification. For example, the Secretary of State may require you have your passport or social security card updated before they will update your driver’s license but you may speak to the Social Security Administration and encounter that they will not update your account unless you have obtained a corrected driver’s license.
In the office’s experience, the best place to begin is your driver’s license. If you are changing your name and this right was given to you as part of your divorce decree, you should go to the Secretary of State within ten (10) days of the entry of the Judgment and present to them a copy of your court Judgment. Additional documents may be required and the full list can be found on the Secretary of state website (click here). Please note that as per the new process for a replacement driver’s license, your new identification may not be issued immediately but mailed to your address within one week.
You will need to visit the Social Security Administration with a copy of your Judgment, your updated driver’s license, your existing social security card and other forms of acceptable identification including birth certificates, as outlined on their website, to be issued a corrected card. (click here)
If you are changing your other identification, you will also be required to change your passport. The local post office should have the documentation to assist you in receiving the proper documents.
Please note that a passport may take 3 or 4 months to be issued if you do not pay for expedited processing. Travel outside of the country often requires two (2) forms of identification and all information on those documents must match. Simple differences like a middle initial or hyphenation could cause significant delays or the inability to travel. If you are planning to fly, even within the United States, please confirm that the ticket matches your identification or that you change your ticket information prior to the date of travel.
In your divorce decree, it should be noted how school forms are to list you and your former spouse. Please contact your local school district with updates as to address, emergency contact and parties that may communicate with the school as to your child.
If child support was ordered in your matter, the payor should remain on schedule and continue making payments to you without delay if child support is paid directly between the both of you. If a payment is missed, please contact the office so appropriate measures can be taken.
POST DIVORCE MATTERS
In your decree, there may be responsibilities listed such as obtaining life insurance to secure support payments, listing or selling of a home or modification of title on property and vehicles. If there are specific dates included, you should make all efforts to complete the required actions in a timely fashion to avoid significant additional court costs and fees.
RULE TO SHOW CAUSE
Should any provision listed in your Judgment or Allocation of Parental Rights not be adhered to, you should contact the office immediately to discuss the possible penalties and issues that may arise. Understand that most issues that are not support related can be agreed to by the parties in writing but failure to document changes could cause significant issues including time in jail for a lack of adherence to the Judgment. All modifications of support must be completed in court and with the acceptance of the judge.
If you intend to relocate during the time when there is a minor child, regardless of your time with that child, if the distance is greater than 25 miles, you may be required to obtain court permission for your relocation. This change in law came into effect in 2016 and many people divorced prior to this change may not be affected or even aware of this modification.
SOCIAL MEDIA POST DIVORCE
In today’s world, much of how we communicate with friends, family and others in our lives is through social media. You may, at your discretion, wish to change the information on your social media accounts such as relationship status and your name. This can be a very emotionally trying experience but most people will eventually do this. When you are reviewing your social media, please take the opportunity to review your connections because some people may no longer be a part of your life or need to know your day to day status. Some connections may now be inappropriate, for example, your former mother-in-law or other relations. They may not necessarily benefit you in announcing to the world your current status.
Not all of these issues are applicable to everyone but some may be important to you based on your situation.
Telephone companies, including your cell phone, transmit information via a caller identification system which may or may not be in one party’s name. In order to change this, call your service provider.
Your email account has a field within its settings that displays your selected name in plain text in the “from” line that you may wish to update.
You may want to inform your postal carrier in case bills and other mail begin arriving to an addressee they may be unfamiliar with.
If you are retaining any vehicles that were previously titled in both names, you should contact the Secretary of State or go online to obtain the proper documents to change title to your vehicle.
Identify any membership organizations that you may belong to such as gyms, libraries, fraternal organizations and charities and make any necessary changes.
Magazines and subscription services should be modified to reflect your information and status.
Adjust all utilities and confirm that they are properly registered so that you have access to the accounts and can limit access by any other party.
ESTATE PLANNING AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY AFTER DIVORCE
As part of your Judgment, both you and your former spouse disclaimed any interest in the other party’s estate absent any provision for distribution of a specific account or monetary sum. For most, it is still highly advisable that proper estate planning be drafted so that you may define who would be the executor of your estate and how your possessions are to be divided. It is also important that we review how any minor children are to be cared for, should the unthinkable occur.
In the State of Illinois, a Healthcare Power of Attorney must be presented for any party to make decisions on your behalf medically. If you are unmarried and proper documentation is not presented, the hospital will do what it deems in your best interest, which may not necessarily be in line with your personal desires. It is strongly recommended that a review and/or drafting of an estate plan be completed as soon as possible. For prior clients of the office, a significant discount will be provided so that we may accomplish this for you.