Completion of Your Divorce
After your Decree of Dissolution has been entered by the Court, there are a number of items that may still need to be completed. This is a outline of some of the items you will need to be sure you have done. If you have questions about any of these items, please contact me so we can discuss any questions you have or any actions that need to be taken.
1. You should keep all of your divorce documents in a safe place with your other important papers. As was agreed in your fee agreement, we will retain your file for five years. After that date, your file may be destroyed without further notice to you.
2. Certified copies of your Dissolution Decree.
You may need to obtain certified copies of your Decree in order to assist in the transfer of assets or changing your name. You can contact my office about obtaining a certified copy. You may also obtain a certified copy from the Clerk of the Superior Court, 110 W. Congress Street, Tucson, AZ. There is a fee to obtain each certified copy. You should keep the certified copy in your possession and only provide copies of the certified copy, if possible.
3. Name Changes
If you have obtained a name change as part of your dissolution, you will need to make sure you change your name on all documents. You will need a certified copy of your Decree in order to do this. The first step is to change your Social Security card. You also need to change your driver’s license with the motor vehicle department. Other offices that may need to be notified of your name change and any address changes are:
- Local US Post Office
- Your employer
- Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona Department of Revenue. You may use IRS Form 8822 for the Internal Revenue Service
- Department of Motor Vehicles
- Any insurance companies, including medical, dental, disability, life, automobile, and homeowners
- Medical offices, dental offices, and any health care providers
- Banks and other financial institutions
- Children’s teachers, schools, and doctors, dentists or health care providers
- Homeowner’s association
- Credit card companies and any debt holders
- Mortgage companies
4. Credit Issues
- Obtain a credit report. You should obtain a copy of your credit report after the divorce. You will need to review this carefully to make sure you are aware of any and all accounts that may be in existence, including any remaining joint accounts.
- You should close all joint credit cards or credit accounts. This includes lines of credit, car loans, and any other loans that may have been in joint names. You may also want to close any inactive accounts that appear on your credit report.
- Orders in the Dissolution Decree regarding the payment of debts are not binding on creditors. You will need to make sure creditors are notified as to who is responsible for the payments on credit cards or debts. However, if your former spouse is ordered to pay a debt and does not pay it, the creditor may still contact you or sue you, if your name is on the account.
- It is possible your former spouse may choose to file bankruptcy at some point in the future. If this occurs, it is important for you to know your rights. You should be sure to contact a bankruptcy lawyer immediately to determine your options and protect your rights. If you need a referral please feel free to contact me.
5. Health Insurance
- If you are covered under your former spouse’s health insurance through your spouse’s employment, you may need to obtain COBRA insurance. This must be done within 60 days of entry of the Decree. Immediately after the entry of the Decree you should contact your spouse’s employer to follow the procedures necessary to obtain your COBRA coverage. It is very important you do this immediately, because if you do not complete the coverage application process within the time required, you will not have insurance.
- You should also consult a health insurance professional to determine if you may be able to obtain health insurance coverage. Under the new health care law, you may be able to obtain health insurance that is sufficient for your needs at a lower cost than COBRA.
- If your spouse is in the military or in government employment, you should check immediately upon the divorce with the employer as to your rights to continue health insurance. There are deadlines for notifying the employer about the divorce and applying for the insurance, which must be met, or your rights may be lost.
6. Children: Decision-making and Parenting Time
- The Orders regarding the legal decision-making and parenting time for your children are included in the Decree, Separation Agreement, or your Memorandum of Understanding from Conciliation Court.
- You and your former spouse are free to make changes to or deviate from your agreements regarding parenting time. However, if there is a disagreement, the Orders from the Court are the Orders that will be enforced.
- If a modification of Legal Decision-Making or Parenting Time is made it must be included in a Court Order to be binding.
- You may go back to Conciliation Court to modify your Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time agreements or orders. This can be done by contacting the Conciliation Court directly at 724-5590. However, any modified agreement reached in Conciliation Court must also be approved by the Court, in order to be binding.
- Your Parenting Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding will also require that you provide information to your former spouse as to your and the children’s addresses and as to any travel plans.
- If you need to enforce your Parenting Time or Legal Decision-Making Orders, you may file a petition with the Court to do so. You should contact me or another attorney in order to determine how to proceed.
- If either parent chooses to move out-of-state, there are specific requirements that must be followed as to notice and obtaining orders from the Court. You should contact me or consult with another lawyer regarding these matters before any out-of-state moves are considered or made.
7. Child Support
- You will have received a copy of the Income Withholding Order which requires the paying person’s employer to pay the Support Payment Clearinghouse the amount ordered from each paycheck. Once the Support Clearinghouse receives the check from the payer’s employer, the Clearinghouse mails the funds to the recipient. It generally takes about three weeks before the Income Withholding Order becomes effective.
- If you do not receive regular checks you may inquire as to the status through the Child Support Unit of the Superior Court. That telephone number is 740-3250. You may also contact the Support Payment Clearinghouse at 1-800-882-4151 or 602-252-4095. You can also get information at the website: www.azdes.gov/az_child_support/contact.aspx
- If there are any changes in your address, you should notify the Support Payment Clearinghouse, P. O. Box 52107, Phoenix, AZ, 85072. Also if there is a change in your employment, or your former spouse’s employment, you should notify the Clerk of Court, Child Support Unit, so an Income Withholding Order can be sent to the new employer.
- Child support is not taxable to the recipient or deductible by the person paying the support.
- Your Child Support Order or your Decree or Separation Agreement will include a designation as to which party may claim the dependency exemption for one or more of the minor children. If no designation is made in the Court Orders the parent with physical custody of the child from more than one half of the year will be entitled to claim the child. Form 8332 must be completed by the spouse releasing the dependency deduction. When completing the form, be careful to fill in only the portion that releases the exemption for the specific year in which the spouse may take the exemption. If you have any questions contact my office or discuss them with your accountant.
- The Clearinghouse only receives and sends out child support payments. They do not make sure payments are being made or take any steps to collect child support. If you are not receiving your child support, you should first check with the Child Support Unit of the Superior Court to see if payments are being made. That telephone number is 740-3250. If no payments are received, you may call me so we can discuss how to proceed. The Attorney General’s Office also provides free assistance in collection of child support. Their telephone number is 622-7000.
- Child support continues in the amount ordered unless it is modified by a court order. Child support can be modified if there is a “ substantial and continuing change of circumstances” under Arizona law. Child Support Guidelines in effect at the time of the modification are used to determine the amount of child support.
- There is an obligation to exchange financial information every two years, so the amount of child support can be reviewed. There is no automatic increase or decrease in child support. All child support modification requests must be filed with the Court and served on the other party. Any modification of child support is effective only after a Petition has been filed with the Court. Child support cannot be retroactively modified.
- Child support terminates when a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school whichever is later, but not past the age of 19. Support for children who are disabled before the age of 18, may continue past this age, if ordered by the Court. Unpaid, past-due child support can be enforced by the court, including obtaining a judgment.
- If you are paying child support, when the support obligation ends, you will need to file documents with the Court to stop the Income Withholding Order. The withholdings will not automatically stop when the child support ends.
- The Child Support Order also designates which parent will pay the medical insurance and expenses not covered by insurance. In most cases each parent is ordered to pay a percentage of the medical expenses not covered by insurance. A request for medical payment reimbursements should include copies of the bills and payments on a timely basis, which should be at least every three months. If you do not make a timely request, which is within 180 days after the date services occur, your right to be reimbursed for these expenses may be lost. You should keep a copy of the request for payment and the bills in case you have to go to Court later to collect these amounts. If you are paying the medical expenses to the other parent, you should keep records of the amounts requested and paid, in the event of future court action.
- You should keep records of all child support payments you have made or have received. You should also keep records of all medical expenses and request for reimbursement, or payment of, such expenses.
8. Spousal Maintenance
- Spousal maintenance is taxable to the person who receives it. If you are receiving spousal maintenance, you may need to talk to your tax advisor or accountant about paying estimated tax payments to cover the taxes on your spousal maintenance. If you are receiving spousal maintenance, you need to keep records of the amount received for your tax returns.
- Spousal maintenance is tax deductible by the person who pays it. If you are paying spousal maintenance, you need to keep records on the amount paid for your tax returns.
- Spousal maintenance usually terminates on the death or remarriage of the recipient, unless specifically otherwise stated in the Decree.
- Your Dissolution Decree will determine whether your spousal maintenance is modifiable or nonmodifiable. If your spousal maintenance is modifiable, it may be able to be modified if there is a “substantial and continuing” change of circumstances. Any request for modification of spousal maintenance must be filed before the spousal maintenance date of termination. If an extension is not requested before the date when the spousal maintenance is to terminate, the spousal maintenance is automatically terminated and cannot be reinstated later.
- It is your responsibility as a recipient of spousal maintenance to collect the spousal maintenance. If you are having difficulty collecting the spousal maintenance from your spouse, please contact me. You also may need to contact a collection attorney to assist you in this regard.
- There is a statute of limitations on the collection of spousal maintenance in Arizona. You must collect the spousal maintenance within three years after the spousal maintenance terminates. If you have not collected the spousal maintenance within three years of the termination of the spousal maintenance, you will lose your right to collect the support. Before the three years expires, you should obtain a judgment for the unpaid spousal maintenance.
- If you have a judgment for unpaid spousal maintenance, that judgment must be renewed every five years. An Affidavit for renewal of a judgment must be filed with the county recorder’s office, or the judgment may not longer be able to be collected.
9. Retirement Accounts
- IRAs. For any IRAs that are already in your name, you need to make sure you have changed the designated beneficiary after the Decree is entered.
- If you were awarded a portion of your former spouse’s IRA in the Decree, you need to follow up to be sure the funds awarded to you are transferred to your IRA or otherwise received by you. If the funds are not transferred to an IRA, you may have to pay income taxes on the money you receive. You should make sure you talk to me or your tax advisor about the tax consequences.
- 401(k)s and other retirement plans. If these were awarded to you and are in your name, you need to make sure you have changed the beneficiary designations.
- QDROs. If you are awarded an interest in a retirement account through Qualified Domestic Relations Order, you need to make sure you follow up with the employer, or administrator of the plan, to make sure your interest has been transferred to a retirement account in your name. This may be transferred to an IRA in your name or it may continue as an account through your spouse’s employer. If you receive the funds and do not roll them over to an IRA, then you may have to pay income taxes on the amount received. You need to consult with me or a tax advisor before you retain any funds from a retirement account.
- Military retirement. If your spouse is or was in the military, and an order has been prepared to divide the military retirement benefits, you need to make sure this Order and a certified copy of the Decree is submitted to the appropriate military office. You should receive some communication from the military office confirming the acceptance of the order.
- If you were awarded a survivor benefit (SBP) under the military retirement plan, you must make sure the military has received the survivor benefit election. This must be submitted within one year of the date of the Decree in order to be valid.
10. Real Estate Transactions
- If you were awarded any real estate in which your spouse had a ownership interest, you need to make sure a deed has been signed to transfer the interest in the property to you.
- Any deeds to real estate also must be recorded with the appropriate county recorder’s office. You should obtain a copy of the final recorded deed and keep it in a safe place.
- Refinancing. If you were ordered to refinance property to change the mortgage into your name, you should follow up and do that as quickly as possible. If your spouse was ordered to refinance the property and remove your name from the mortgage, you will need to follow up to make sure this is been done within the appropriate time frame. Do not sign a deed releasing your interest in the property until you are sure that any refinancing will remove your name from the mortgage and any other lines of credit or other liens or debts on the property.
- Any real estate will be awarded to you at the same tax basis that you and your former spouse owned it. This means the tax basis of the property is generally the amount you paid for the property plus additional improvements or investments in the property. The tax basis of the property will determine whether you have any capital gain when you sell the real estate. You may have capital gain on the sale of the real estate. You should consult with your tax preparer or tax advisor as to any issues regarding the tax basis in the property or capital gains.
11. Life Insurance
- If a life insurance policy is required to be maintained with you as the beneficiary, you will need to contact the life insurance company directly and send them a copy of the Decree. You must follow up to make sure this life insurance is in effect and you are the designated beneficiary. You must also request the insurance company notify you of any changes in the policy or failure to pay the premiums. You should request the insurance company confirm for you in writing that this is being done. If you do not make sure the life insurance is maintained as required by your Decree it may not be in place, or you may not be the designated beneficiary. You should have been given a authorization to contact the insurance company regarding payment of premiums and beneficiary designations. This will allow your direct contact with the insurance company. You must make sure the insurance company is following the requirements of the Dissolution Decree.
- You will need to make periodic follow-ups to make sure all life insurance policies are maintained according to the requirements of the Decree.
- For any life insurance policies on your life, you should contact the insurance companies and change the beneficiary designations.
12. Tax Issues
- Check with your accountant or tax advisor to determine what your tax income withholdings should be in light of your new marital status.
- You may need to make estimated tax payments after the divorce, particularly if you are receiving spousal maintenance, and you should consult your accountant or tax advisor regarding these.
- You should change your income tax withholdings with your employer after discussion with your accountant or tax advisor.
- You should make sure you have copies of all of your income tax returns for future reference. If you do not have copies of your tax returns, you may obtain them from the Internal Revenue Service.
- Some of your legal fees may be deductible if you were ordered to pay spousal maintenance. You should check with your accountant or tax advisor.
- If your spouse has been responsible for filing the income tax returns in the past, you will need to make sure you file returns for yourself. You may need to consult a tax preparer to do this on your behalf, or consult a tax advisor or accountant to provide you with tax advice.
- If you are going to sell any real estate, stocks, bonds or other similar property that was awarded to you in the Dissolution of Marriage, you may need to consult with the tax advisor regarding any possible capital gains taxes due on the sale of the property.
13. Social Security Benefits
- If you were married for at least 10 years prior to your divorce, you may be eligible for spousal Social Security benefits, based on your spouse’s earnings, at an appropriate age. This will not affect the benefits of your former spouse.
- You need to be sure you understand your Social Security benefits. You should obtain a copy of your Social Security statement at www.ssa.gov. In addition, you should contact the Social Security office to discuss any benefits you may be entitled to at age 62, 65 or 66, or at your spouse’s reaching these ages.
14. Other Beneficiary Designations. You need to make sure all other beneficiary designations are changed after your divorce. This will include:
- 401(k)s or other retirement plans of any type
- life insurance policies, including any through your employment
- any and all other liability or liability insurance policies.
15. Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney
- After divorce it is important to review your will, trusts, and any powers of attorney that you had prepared prior to the divorce. You may want to obtain a new will, execute a living will, healthcare power of attorney, and/or financial power of attorney, if you do not already have these prepared. If you already have these documents, you will want to make sure you have considered changing the provisions to exclude any provisions for your former spouse. You may also want to consider new personal representative or executor designations. You may have outstanding powers of attorney which you will want to change.
- You should also make sure any joint trusts were in existence at the time of your divorce have been modified or revoked, as appropriate.
- While provisions in your will drafted prior to your divorce for your former spouse will be statutorily revoked because of the divorce, you still need to review all of these documents and make the changes.
- If you need any referrals to assist you in this, please contact our office.
16. Other Insurance Changes
- You will need to change your car insurance if you have not done so as part of the divorce.
- You will need to change your household insurance and/or homeowner’s insurance.
- You will need to update your fire, casualty or liability insurance to make sure coverage and beneficiaries are appropriate.
17. Other Property
- You should close all joint accounts such as bank accounts, investment accounts, or other such accounts.
- You need to make sure all personal property has been exchanged. You will want to make sure you have obtained all personal property you are entitled to receive from your former spouse.
- You should make sure the titles to all vehicles, including cars, trucks, trailers, boats, RVs, or other vehicles that have titles have been changed into your sole name.
- If there are any business interests, you need to make sure they have been assigned to the appropriate spouse. If any business interests are awarded to you, you will need to obtain all assignments of interest from your spouse. If you have received a business interest in the divorce, you need to make sure all ownership documents have been transferred into your name, and your former spouse has been removed from all such business entities. If your former spouse received any business interests, you will want to make sure your name has been removed from these, so that there is no future liability to you.
- If there are any stocks, bonds, savings bonds, or any other such assets, you should check the titles to make sure they have been changed also.
- If you had a joint safety deposit box at a bank, you should make sure it is closed or that you obtain all copies of any keys.
18. Collection of Judgments
- If a judgment has been entered in your favor, you will need to make sure you take steps to record and collect the judgment. The recording of the judgment should take place in the county in which your ex-spouse resides or has property.
- If you are unable to collect your judgment within 5 years, you may need to file an affidavit to renew the judgment.
- You should contact me or consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of judgments and debt collection, to make sure your rights have been protected.
- If you decide to marry again after the entry of this Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, you should consult with an attorney in order to determine if your remarriage will affect any of your rights under this Decree.
- You should also consider whether or not a Prenuptial Agreement would be appropriate in your case.
by: Sandra Tedlock