I’m getting a divorce – what now?

Attorney Shannon Elms

Here are a few things you may want to consider, or discuss with your attorney, upon beginning the divorce (dissolution of marriage) process.

One of the first things you will want to do when you separate is get your legal bearings.  What can/can't you do? What changes can you make to your accounts? What steps should you take to protect yourself? This post considers some of the frequent issues that arise at the outset of a divorce action.

Do you have retirement plans? If you or your spouse has a retirement plan, there are several things you will want to consider.

If the plan is yours, you will want to consider:

  • Who is named as the beneficiary? Do you want to take steps to change this designation?
  • How do you want this plan to be divided?
  • Was this plan acquired before marriage, or was a pre-marital retirement account “rolled over” into this account?
  • Because of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (“ATRO'S”) included on your Summons, you may not change your spouse’s retirement benefits without prior authorization or written agreement. If you wish to change this designation, or are concerned about protecting your own benefits, you should discuss these questions with your attorney before making any changes.

If the plan belongs to your spouse, you will want to consider:

  • Does this plan need to be “joined” so that it is subject to a court order dividing the plan (“QDRO”)?
  • Who is designated as the beneficiary on the plan?
  • Do you have access to all of the information you will need about your spouses retirement plans? Do you know what retirement plans or accounts your spouse has?
  • Are there any loans against these retirement accounts?

Do you have an estate plan (trust, will, etc...)?

Now that you are getting a divorce, you may wish to change the terms of your estate plan.  You should consider reviewing your existing estate plan with a probate attorney, or possibly having a new trust or will prepared.

Do you have property held in joint tenancy?

You may want to consider taking steps to terminate your joint tenancy status. Property held in joint tenancy will automatically transfer to the other joint tenant in the event of your death. It may be that you do not wish this to occur once you have separated or planned to divorce.

Are you paying for your spouse’s medical insurance benefits? Is your spouse paying for your medical insurance benefits?

Because of the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (“ATRO'S”) included on your Summons, you may not change your spouse’s medical insurance benefits without prior authorization or written agreement. If you wish to change this designation, or are concerned about protecting your own benefits, you should discuss these questions with your attorney before making any changes.

Do you, or your spouse, have a life insurance policy?

You should determine who is currently named as the beneficiary(ies) on all life insurance policies held in your name, or your spouses. Many employers offer these policies, and you may not even be aware that you or your spouse has such a policy. Oftentimes, the easiest place to look to determine whether you have an employment related life insurance policy is a current paycheck statement .

You will want to consider whether you wish to change this designation. If you are receiving child and spousal support, you may also wish to consider seeking an order or settlement agreement requiring your spouse to maintain a policy for your benefit in order to secure ongoing support.

Again, because of the ATRO'S (included on your Summons), you may not change your spouse’s insurance benefits without prior authorization or written agreement. If you wish to change this designation, or are concerned about protecting your own benefits, you should discuss these questions with your attorney before making any changes.

 

**This blog post may be considered an attorney advertisement under California Law.

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