All the papers are signed, the arguments are over, and a judgment has been entered, what are the next steps you should ensure your attorney is taking?

There are a variety of administrative tasks that need to be accomplished once a judgment is entered in order to make sure your future interests are being protected.

One such concern is the removal of a spouse from the title of real property owned during the marriage. This can be achieved by filing a quit claim deed, either during the proceedings or after, which removes the other spouse’s name and legal claim to any property. Quit claim deeds only remove a spouse’s name from the title, not the mortgage, so the spouse receiving the property should also refinance to become the sole individual responsible on the mortgage. This is important both if you are receiving the real property or if you are being removed from the deed, as you will want your name off the mortgage if it is no longer your responsibility. [1] Quit claim deeds are an effective and efficient tool for the transfer of real property because they can often be drafted by the same attorney completing your divorce, and once signed, the transfer is difficult to undo.

Another important task is the management of how future retirement and pension funds will be divided. Pension benefits earned during the marriage are treated as marital property and, like all other marital property, are subject to division upon a dissolution. [2] If an ex-spouse is entitled to receive a portion of the other’s retirement benefits, they are considered an alternate payee, and  either a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) or a Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order(“QILDRO”) is required to be entered.[3] This is something that should be discussed during the dissolution process. A QILDRO differs from a QDRO because it is more restrictive and it is controlled by Illinois state law instead of federal law. It is important to have these documents submitted to the court as quickly as possible after the marriage is dissolved. This is because, if a spouse is entitled to remove their ex-spouse as an alternate payee and fails to do so, the ex-spouse may receive the funds regardless of the agreed settlement terms or receive more than the agreed or ordered amount.

A final step that must be taken to ensure all your future interests are protected is removing your ex-spouse as a beneficiary under any ERISA plan you may have. ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and includes plans such as Simplified Employee Pension Plans (SEP) and 401(k) plans. [4] If an individual fails to execute the correct documents to remove their ex-spouse as a beneficiary, upon their death, their ex-spouse, or another unintended party, may have a rightful legal claim to the plan’s payout. This holds true even if the individual gets remarried, inherits the beneficiary title from a former spouse who has previously passed away, or if the funds were left to their own children. [5]

For these reasons and more, it is critical to ensure that your attorney is taking the proper steps to protect your future interests even after an agreement has been settled. At Sherer Law Offices, we are experienced in all the steps necessary to protect your interests before, during, and after a divorce.

Contact us at 618-692-6656 or today to see how we can help you.

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[2] 750 ILCS 5/503(b)(2)

[3] 40 ILCS 5/1-119