By: Jaclyn Zembrodt Taylor, Law Clerk Melissa Doss Law, LLC
The process of divorce is different for each person who goes through it. The time it takes, the meetings you attend, the papers that you have to sign, whether you step foot in a courtroom, etc., look different for everyone. Whatever your process does look like, most people are extremely relieved when they finally receive their divorce decree in the mail, made official by the judge’s signature. Most people think the work is over once they finally get to hold that piece of paper in their hands. Unfortunately, for many divorcees, there are still more boxes to check post-decree, including updating deeds and titles, dividing retirement, amending your will, beginning to follow the court order, and getting your personal affairs in order.
Update Deeds and Titles
While married, many spouses include both names on car titles and the deed to their home. When a couple divorces, the assets must be retitled in the name of the party receiving the asset. Car titles can be changed with a couple of signatures through your local DMV, just be sure to bring your title with you. On the other hand, a deed to a home is a bit more complicated. An attorney must draft a form called a Quitclaim Deed. This form is signed by both parties and can be filed with the county clerk so that a new deed can be issued with the new owner’s name. Without transferring a deed or title, there will be an encumbrance on the property when trying to sell in the future.
Under Kentucky law, accrual of value in an individual retirement during a marriage is deemed to be marital property subject to equal division unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties. Whether the court divided a couple’s retirement accounts, or the parties agreed to another arrangement, any division of a pension or 401K requires the execution of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Much like the quitclaim deed, a QDRO can be drafted by one of the attorneys representing the parties, given the attorney offers this service. Many attorneys outsource this service, but Melissa Doss Law can draft and execute QDROS in office. After both parties have signed the document, the QDRO is filed in with the court. Once filed and signed by the judge, the QDRO is sent to the company holding the retirement account. An IRA also needs to be divided, but we use a Letter of Instruction versus a QDRO in order to get this accomplished. Dividing retirement accounts can be a long and arduous process; thus, it is important to begin the process as soon as possible after you receive your decree.
Amend Your Will
Per common practice of married couples, most wills devise an individual’s estate to a living spouse as primary beneficiary. KRS 394.092 states that a divorce will not revoke the entire will. Kentucky law recognizes that most spouses do not intend to make dispositions to an ex-spouse and will revoke dispositions to an ex-spouse by law. For purposes of your estate, the law should treat your ex-spouse as if they had died prior to you. However, if you have made a disposition to your former spouse in your will and you no longer wish for this to be so, an update is needed. If you have made a disposition to your former spouse and would like to maintain this disposition, an update is even more important. A disposition to your former spouse will not be honored unless you expressly provide for it in an updated will. This is imperative post-divorce.
Begin Following the Court’s Order
Whether the court issued Finding of Fact and Conclusions of Law following a hearing or you entered into a Property and Custody Settlement Agreement with your former spouse, there is a court order to follow. It is important to begin following the provisions of the court order immediately. Some provisions may require a brand-new life routine for you and your family, and it is important you implement the correct tools and consult the proper channels in order to begin living pursuant to the court order. A failure to follow the court’s order opens you up to contempt liability, which most people wish to avoid.
Get Your Personal Affairs In Order
The post-decree era of your life marks a new journey for you as an unmarried person. In most marriages, each spouse has their own individual duties and responsibilities, however, you are responsible for everything, including performing tasks and taking care of things you are not accustomed to. Begin as soon as you can to find a new normal with all of the unfamiliar tasks and circumstances. Sometimes professional help is needed to help an individual organize their life in this post-decree period. Melissa Doss Law has several references to point you in the right direction if needed. Each day will get easier!
While it may seem like you are crossing the finish line when you receive your signed decree, take a minute to review any further obligations you have. More often than not, there are further actions that need to be taken to finalize the terms of your divorce. Don’t forget to ask your attorney for advice as to the specific and particularized post-decree items you need to complete pursuant to your unique divorce agreement and proceedings. That’s what attorneys are there for!