It’s over. Officially. But, now what?
As a divorce lawyer for the last 16 years, I can tell you that, as crazy as it sounds, one of the most difficult parts of divorce is often the end.
After enduring so many months of negotiation, paperwork, deadlines, heartache, and perhaps even frustration and anger, when the divorce judgment is finally granted, it can feel all at once like an incredible burden has been lifted—but also like a thick cloud of fog has settled in.
So, now what? Where do you go from here?
Your post-divorce checklist
One of the most popular resources on Hello Divorce is a pre-leaving checklist. This comprehensive list of to-dos and documents to get in order can help you plan your process thoughtfully and strategically at an emotionally difficult time.
We quickly realized that a post-separation checklist can be just as useful. It can help you put your best foot forward as you start your new chapter. So, without further ado, here it is: the post-divorce checklist you need to start your new beginning.
1. Make sure the legal stuff is squared away.
After your judgment is finalized, if there was a retirement account awarded to a former spouse, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) must be drafted, filed, and sent to the retirement plan. Just stating in the divorce documents that one party is awarded the marital or community property does not divide the benefit. For any type of retirement account division, you need a QDRO. The ex-spouse will not receive any retirement benefit now or in the future without one.
If the QDRO is not done before a participant’s death or retirement and the parties are divorced, the ex-spouse (non-member) may not receive any funds. This is why it is so important not to delay getting your QDRO done.
There is no-one-size-fits-all QDRO. However, getting it wrong could lead to permanent loss of survivor benefits.
For an accurate and fair division, be sure your QDRO is prepared based on the facts specific to your case and your retirement benefits by a qualified expert, like our partners at QDROCounsel.
2. Reassess your finances.
Jennifer Taylor, a CPA and certified divorce financial analyst, reminds clients that during a divorce, cash, assets, and records that have been around for years sometimes start “magically disappearing.” This stems from fear and panic over the property division process.
Now that you’re at the close of your divorce, you should know exactly where you stand with your ex financially. So, it’s a good time to reassess your finances and plan your budget for at least the next year.
Jennifer shares more tips in her 10-Step Quick Guide for Tackling Divorce Financial Issues, including a helpful template you can download and use to compare your pre-divorce and post-divorce expenses.
3. Do something for you.
I cannot stress the importance of self-care during and after divorce enough.
Clients who make time for themselves—at least one hour a week—tell me they feel more at peace, more grounded. They experience more clarity throughout the divorce process.
Checking out from the demands of your day-to-day life to do something just for you will help you mentally and physically. Not sure where to start? My friend Annie Wright, of Annie Wright Psychotherapy, compiled a list of 101 Self-Care ideas. And if you can’t find a good idea there, you might try working through this self-care worksheet she and I created, which will help you commit to a time and activity. (Because let’s face it: Too often, if it doesn’t get scheduled, it won’t get done.)
4. Update your records.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to update auto, home, and insurance policies to remove your ex’s name or update your own. The same goes for your will, medical insurance, credit cards, driver’s license, and emergency contact info at work.
5. Review (or finalize) your co-parenting plan.
If you and your ex have kids, it’s important to start on the right foot when it comes to implementing your co-parenting plan. This blog post I wrote has tips on how to plan, communicate, and co-parent your child(ren) by age. Or, check out these five co-parenting hacks.
6. Prep a stash of feel-good quotes.
Some days you’ll need them more than others, but having a go-to list of inspiring, affirming quotes will help refocus you on the positive when you need a pick-me-up. Here are a few of my favorite uplifting quotes to help you get started.
7. Bookmark this.
Our team at Hello Divorce has compiled a terrific list of resources for life after separation. From co-parenting resources to advice on dating after divorce to travel with kids as a single parent to redecorating, this list will quickly become your go-to.
8. Throw a divorce party.
We recently came across an article about the divorce journey and how, in our society, we don’t pull together to support the people we celebrated when they married. It’s time to change that feeling of “aloneness” and pull in the people you most love and cherish.
Maybe you want to go hog wild and stay out until your kiddos wake up. Maybe you just want to spend an evening with friends who inspire you or make you laugh. Either way, you’ve been through a lot and deserve an evening celebrating the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new (better) version of yourself.
9. Crush your post-divorce goals with this worksheet.
And speaking of goals, let’s talk #relationshipgoals (when you’re ready). This worksheet will help you prepare to introduce your new significant other to your kids … and your ex.
More than any tip on this post-separation checklist, I want you to remember: You got this. Take things day by day, and it will get easier. Every day, you’ll grow a little bit more into a new and even more amazing version of you. I promise.