Obtain Certified Copies of Final Orders: Certified copies of the decree of dissolution of marriage, the Separation Agreement and the Parenting Plan can be obtained from the Clerk of Court. Certified copies may be needed to complete any change of name requests involving driver’s license, social security card, and investment/bank accounts. Obtain the copies needed and keep at least one in your permanent records.
Follow & Document Compliance with Court Orders: Upon granting the divorce the Court will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and adopt any Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan as an order of the court. If the decree is entered after a contested hearing, the Court will enter Permanent Orders that specify property and debt division, maintenance or alimony, child support, parental decision-making authority and parenting time. The court’s orders are not just guidelines; they are enforceable orders of the court. Enforcement is usually by proceedings for contempt for refusal or failure to abide by the orders.
Document or journal compliance with the orders entered — both paper copy kept in a safe place and electronic (PDF). Do not rely on simply electronic copies (computers crash and lose data). Keep paper copies in a secure place where you can find them as needed. If the final orders require payment of debt, maintenance, child support, or transfer of assets, keep proof that these matters have been completed. Non-payment of child support when due automatically creates a judgment for the unpaid amount; the judgment is enforceable for 20 years in Colorado. Keep proof of payment in case you need to show that the ordered support was paid. If you do not keep proof, you may have to pay the amount due a second time, with interest from the date it was due. Interest on unpaid child support is 12%, compounded monthly.
Name Change: If you requested a change in your name at the time of the divorce, it will be stated in the Decree of Dissolution, typically at the end of the document. Changes of name to restore a maiden name are common in these proceedings. Check to make sure that the Decree correctly states what your changed name will be: if a correction needs to be made, ask the Court to issue an amended decree. You will need a certified copy of the Decree when you apply to licensing authorities to change or update their records (drivers license, social security cards, etc.). If a name change was not requested in connection with the divorce proceedings, you will need to file a petition to change your name with the County Court where you reside, publish the request in the newspaper and comply with other court procedures.
Update Insurance Beneficiaries: Review all insurance policies, especially life insurance, to determine who is listed as the beneficiary. Request change forms from the insurance company and make updates or corrections. Keep a copy of the change request sent to the insurance company with the copy of the policy. Although usually a former spouse will be presumed to not receive under the policy, it is best to be safe rather than sorry, and create more problems for your loved ones later on if you neglect to update the policy.
Review & Update Will and Estate Planning Documents: Once the Decree has been entered, review any prior will, medical directives, or powers of attorney you may have executed. Update or redo the documents as needed. Destroy the prior documents and notify anyone that had a copy that they are no longer valid. Keep the replacement documents in a safe place. If you do not have a will, consider making one and include directions on how your children will be provided for upon your death. If the children are young, consider placing property in trust for their benefit and who to have act as the trustee.
Protect Assets: If property was awarded to you during the divorce case, take steps to remove the other party from the title. Creditors of the other party may attempt to reach the assets to satisfy their claims if legal ownership remains with the other party. Seek the services of a QDRO expert to prepare documents needed to transfer ownership of retirement assets awarded in the divorce case. Do not delay in doing this, particularly with Colorado state retirement plans such as PERA which all teachers, government employees, and other state workers benefit from. If you wait too long, you may lose the ability to obtain your awarded share of the retirement plan.
Modify Parenting Plan & Child Support if Needed: In the years after the decree is entered there will be changes in the needs of the children, both regarding the parenting timeshare schedule and financial support. Children will get older and no longer need daycare, which is a large cost item in most child support worksheets. Parenting time schedules suitable for younger children may no longer be practical or desired when they become teenagers and have busy school and social schedules. Informal change in the parenting schedule is okay, so long as it is documented in writing signed by both parents. Modifying child support informally is inviting disaster later on: any modification in child support must be approved by the court and made into an court order. Adjusting child support on your own without a court order approving the changes may result in a large arrears balance due, plus interest, later on.
Recuperate & Do Not Repeat Past Mistakes: “Rebound” relationships are fairly common and seldom last. Give yourself time to heal from the divorce. Take the time to think about what when wrong in the relationship. Think about why you chose the spouse in the first place — what attracted you to them, what personal, emotional needs were you expecting or wanting to be met or fulfilled. When you consider entering into a new relationship, take a hard look and consider whether that person is the same or similar to the one you just divorced from. You usually do not solve problems by making the same mistake again.
The information provided above is general in nature, is not intended as legal advice for your particular situation and should not be relied upon without first consulting with legal counsel. Martin Law Firm provides legal representation in domestic relations matters in the Denver Colorado metro area and will tailor its services to your particular needs and unique circumstances.