10 Common Mistakes People Make After Finalizing Their Divorce
(Part 1 of 3) General Advice
For what is likely to be virtually every person that has ever had a divorce, the news that your case is settled or receiving your trial verdict is often the lone bright spot after months or years of emotional and financial turmoil. Legally speaking, you and your former spouse are recognized as separated under the law and, depending on the terms of your settlement or verdict, can begin to go your separate ways.
If your divorce involves children or property held in titles, there are still a few things you need to do and common pitfalls you should look to avoid. Below are 10 common mistakes and pitfalls encountered when finalizing a divorce. If you experience any of the following, do not hesitate to contact your attorney for advice and help getting things back under control.
1. The court is not the place to fight out your grudges.
First and foremost, a common point attorneys frequently advise their clients at the outset of being hired is that the court and legal system are not in place for you to personally punish your ex every little dispute.
Attorneys work in conflict and love to help clients work through disputes using various practice styles. Even the most gung-ho of litigators will advise their clients that it is both expensive and often a waste of the court’s resources to litigate personal battles with your former spouse on any little sleight, real or perceived.
In situations where you are dealing with a malicious former spouse, courts and attorneys alike often advise you to first talk it out and firmly notify your ex to cease and desist in writing. This sets the stage and often addresses the issue outright. In fact, most disputes can be resolved by talking it out with open communication, joint therapy or counseling, and time to process then reflect on emotions. Regardless, whenever you have a hostile situation involving your former partner, be sure to document all your interactions to create a standard written record of events. From there, should a matter become serious enough to warrant court intervention, your attorney is in a good position to present your case in its entirety.
Only if the bad behavior is ongoing and legitimately severe (i.e., likely illegal to begin with) will the court be in any position to do anything to help you. The courts and laws governing family issues are in place to offer broad standards for how separated couples should handle parenting, custody, child support, property division, serious disputes, and enforcement of rights and remedies under the law. Intentionally absent from this list are those times when your ex acts legally, but still does something malicious simply to get under your skin. Again, these are areas where an attorney may be able to help, but utilizing the court should be the last thing on your mind.
Washington State conveniently provides individuals with the opportunity to change their name at the same time as concluding their divorce. If your Final Divorce Order contains instructions for a name change, the Clerk of the Court will automatically process all paperwork necessary to legally change your name. Even if you fail to take advantage of this convenient privilege, changing your name is still a simple affair and requires only that you fill out some standard forms, pay the filing fee, and present the documents to a Court Commissioner for approval before filing with the Clerk of the Court. In both of these cases, the rest of your documentation and official paperwork still remains unchanged.
It is up to you to fill out applications to update all of your information. Failing to do so can have serious negative implications in your life, including denial of insurance benefits, extended detention by police and travel checkpoints, and difficulties with financial transactions. Below are some common additional things you should update when you change your name:
- Social Security Card
- Driver’s License
- Vehicle Titles
- Insurance Policies
- Real Estate Records & Mortgage Lenders
- Credit Cards
- Bank and Investment Accounts
- Employment Records
- Utility Bills
- Address Records
- Student Loan Servicers
- School Records (if enrolled)
Although this is not a complete list of everything you need to update it, it should give you a good start on things. Ideally, you will update all name records when you change your name. Expecting absolute perfection is often difficult and/or unrealistic. As a rule of thumb when examining your life for what you need to update, pay close attention to any documents that can impact your ease of transit, access to finance, property records, or payment of debts. These classic areas cause the most problems for people after they change their name.
At some point, you may experience a situation where you have an ex clearly violating the final orders, parenting plan, or child support order. You may think that it is a simple matter you can handle and that you do not necessarily need an attorney to represent you in the proceedings. While some people do possess the care and attention required to represent themselves without legal help, even attorneys are strongly cautioned against representing themselves.
The issue here is not that the person is smart enough to handle the affairs on their own; the reason one should never represent themselves if they can avoid it is because legal battles are distracting, difficult, and can cause a person to say or do something they regret—especially divorce and child custody/support matters. Before launching into defending yourself, consult with an attorney. You may have a simple issue that can be fixed with a few simple moves on your end, but it is best to at least check with a professional first. In fact, many attorneys offer free or reduced-rate consultations prior to retaining their services.
Authored by attorney Savage