11 Post-Divorce Actions to Take To Start Your New Life

Once your divorce judgment is issued your marriage is legally over. However, there are still important steps to take to realign your life with your new status and set yourself up for success. 

Here are 11 areas to take immediate action for your new life:

  1. Estate Planning

    As soon as your divorce is finalized, meet with your estate planning attorney and create a new strategy for your estate. You will need to execute a new will that does not include your former spouse, and you may wish to reallocate other bequests as well. If your spouse was your executor, you will need to select a new one. 

    If you have minor children, you will want to rethink your choice for the guardian. If you are the custodial parent, you have the option of inserting a clause explaining why you select someone other than the other parent as guardian. Your attorney will also review your trusts to determine if any changes need to be made to the trustee, beneficiaries, or terms. If you have minor children, this is the time to establish trusts for them if you have not already done so. 

    You will also need to reevaluate existing advance directives and health care proxies. Your spouse was likely named as your proxy, the person who can make decisions for you if you are unable to. You will most likely want to choose someone else. 

    Your estate planning package also likely contains a power of attorney authorizing your spouse to make financial and business decisions for you. This will need to be replaced as well. 

  2. Financial Accounts

    Your legal team has likely already had you close down or at least freeze joint financial accounts while the divorce was pending. After finalization of the divorce, all joint accounts should be closed and distributed according to the judgment. Your accountant or business manager will ensure that distribution is handled correctly. New accounts should be opened in your name alone. 

    You will need to change all passwords for all of your accounts so that your ex can no longer access them. If you have powers of attorney in place on individual accounts authorizing your spouse to manage separate or business accounts, those should be removed. 

    Distribution of some retirement accounts will take longer to accomplish as the attorneys must create and submit Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (“QDROs”) to the plans for distribution to be authorized. 

  3. Financial Plan

    Your entire financial plan must be reevaluated after the divorce. Your financial team will examine all of your current assets, businesses, holdings, and debts and consider any restructuring that is necessary or advisable. You likely have new goals, and your property distribution and spousal support obligations will dramatically impact your financial landscape.

  4. Real Estate

    Your attorney will ensure that new deeds are executed for all real estate distributed in the divorce. You should request that your property managers install new locks or new door codes for all property that is now separate. Make sure the staff knows who can and cannot have access to your properties. 

  5. Property Division

    The judgment of divorce will indicate how assets such as furniture, jewelry, art, vehicles, and collectibles are to be distributed. You and your spouse must follow the court's order and allocate items accordingly. Items with titles will require issuance of new titles. Consult with your attorney to determine if in-person exchanges, delivery, or management by your attorney is the best way to handle distribution of marital items. 

    It's important to document property distribution and obtain a receipt for transfers so there can be no legal dispute about compliance. If there is general personal property that has not yet been distributed (such as clothing, mementos, books, electronics, and so on) which the court has left to you and your spouse to divide, your attorney will make arrangements for entry into the home or homes for those items to be packed and removed. 

  6. Safes and Safe Deposit Boxes

    Any safe deposit boxes in joint names should be closed after divorce. Open new ones in your individual name. Codes for all home or business safes should be changed if your spouse had access to them during the marriage. 

  7. Identification

    If you changed your name when you got married, your judgment of divorce will likely authorize you to return to your pre-marital name. Your legal team will assist you in handling the paperwork necessary to file for your name change with various governmental agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of State (for your passport). Each agency requires forms and documents (birth certificate and judgment of divorce) to process the change. 

    Once your name has legally been changed with the government agencies, your assistant will need to change any place your name is used as an owner or responsible party such as:

    • Voter registration

    • Utilities

    • Social media

    • Professional licensing boards

    • Post office

    • Online shopping accounts (such as Amazon)

    • Insurance (homeowner's, auto, boat, renter's, life, umbrella, and riders)

    • Health care providers

    • Gym membership

    • Financial accounts, credit cards, and creditors

    • Employer or business

    • Email

    • Children's schools and activities

    • Associations and organizations (professional, personal, charitable)

  8. Track Payments

    If spousal support and child support payments are due to you, be clear what is due when and who will receive it and be responsible for tracking it. Payments should come directly to your accountant to manage, so they should be fully informed as to what payments are required. If you will be paying child support or spousal support, be sure your financial team has the information and will make scheduled payments. 

  9. Implement Your Parenting Plan

    If there are minor children from the marriage and you have not previously reached an agreement about custody, your divorce judgment will include a comprehensive parenting plan. Most likely, you have already been sharing time with your children. The judgment may create a change to that plan, so the entire family will need to recalibrate to accommodate the new schedule. This will require adjustment of scheduling for nannies, sitters, and transportation for the children. 

  10. Understand Orders of Protection

    Your judgment may include orders of protection designed to provide distance between you and your spouse. If such an order is included, it’s important to comprehend its specifics so that you can comply and understand the thresholds for reporting noncompliance by your ex. 

  11. Remain in Touch with Your Attorney

    In a high net worth divorce that is also high conflict, it is unlikely that there will be strict and immediate compliance with any court order. It’s important to stay in contact with your attorney so that they can file for enforcement, violation, and contempt of orders your ex fails to comply with. 

Receiving your judgment of divorce concludes the most challenging leg of your journey, but you and your team must pay attention to the detailed work of realigning your life after divorce. 


Dror Bikel

Dror Bikel co-founded Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield, New York’s best known firm for high-conflict matrimonial disputes. A New York Superlawyer℠ and twice recognized (2020 and 2021) New York Divorce Trial Lawyer of the Year, Dror’s reputation as a fearsome advocate in difficult custody and divorce disputes has led him to deliver solid outcomes in some of New York’s most complex family law trials. Attorney Bikel is a frequent commentator on high profile divorces for national and international media outlets. His book The 1% Divorce - When Titans Clash was a 5-category Amazon bestseller.

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