For many in Washington who begin the divorce process, getting it over with is a primary goal. Some may even give up their rights to fair asset division just to be finished with the emotional turmoil a divorce often brings. Nevertheless, if you are in the middle of your divorce, it is critical to remain focused and engaged to the end to ensure your post-divorce life goes as smoothly as possible.

Unfortunately, even when your divorce decree has a judge’s signature, you are not finished with the work of dissolving your marriage. Many do not realize there are further steps to take to complete the process and that neglecting these steps can result in frustration and serious setbacks.

One step at a time

When the court order or settlement is finalized by a judge, it does not automatically put into place the terms that you and your spouse agree to or that a judge orders. You and your spouse will still have to work through the details of your divorce terms and begin to rebuild your individual lives, including taking care of the following items:

  • Transferring the deed to the house, titles to any vehicles and ownership of other assets, or taking steps to sell those items as your settlement or order dictates
  • Obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to divide your retirement plans and pensions
  • Learning how your divorce will affect your tax returns and how you can minimize any negative outcomes
  • Setting up a post-divorce budget and beginning to build your individual credit history
  • Getting your own health and other insurance policies if your divorce removes you from your spouse’s coverage
  • Closing joint bank and investment accounts, safety deposit boxes, and other joint financial accounts
  • Changing your last name, if applicable, including updating your records for your banks, credit cards, the Social Security Administration and your driver’s license

The little things count, too, so you will want to take the time to change your passwords on your accounts, computers and other devices and sites to which your spouse had access. It is also wise to obtain legal advice for updating your estate plan, insurance policies, transfer-on-death designations and beneficiaries on your other accounts so your spouse is not the primary beneficiary, if that is your wish.

While it may seem complicated, a little organization and experienced professional assistance can be helpful in allowing you to tackle each task and make a smooth transition to your post-divorce life.