Going through an Illinois divorce can be quite a lengthy process. First, you made the decision to part ways with your spouse, either mutually or on a more one-sided basis. You were then thrown into the legal process of creating your divorce agreement or having a judge make decisions for you. You likely discussed how your property will be divided, how much money one spouse will pay the other until you both get afloat, and which spouse will be the primary parent for your kids, if applicable. These are only three of the many areas that will be discussed throughout the legal process, and in many cases, it can take months, if not a year or more, to have all of the details nailed down.
Now that you and your spouse, or the court, have come to an agreement in all of the areas of your divorce, you may feel like you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. There will be no more attorney meetings, ongoing court dates, or uncomfortable conversations to have with your former spouse about the details of your impending divorce. While you may feel like you are finally over the large obstacle that is a divorce, there are still a number of considerations that must be made before your marriage is finally legally dissolved in the eyes of the law
Updating Your Name
Many divorcing wives will decide to revert back to using their maiden name once their divorce is finalized. Simply updating your name is not an extremely involved process, but the number of documents that must be updated can take some time. If you revert back to your maiden name, you will also need to update your driver’s license, social security card, car title, and registration, insurance policies, employer records, and any other important documentation that includes your full name. It is important that all of these legal documents and forms of documentation are updated immediately to avoid any further confusion in the future. You should also update any login information that your former spouse may have access to and remove him or her from being an authorized user on your various online accounts, including household utility bills.
Separate Your Finances Once and For All
One of the most important, and sometimes contentious, areas of the divorce process is the division of property and assets. In the state of Illinois, the asset division process relies on equitable distribution. This means that you and your spouses’ shared financials will be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. The Illinois court system will take a number of factors into consideration, such as each spouse’s financial contributions and their future earning capacities. You may think that once this process is complete, you can be done discussing mutual finances altogether. Many couples, however, will forget to update and separate all of their bank accounts. You should create a list of all of the mutual accounts that you share and be sure to close the account as soon as your divorce is finalized. This includes any checking, savings, and credit card accounts. You will then create new accounts, making sure that they are listed under your updated name and address, if applicable. It is imperative that you close your credit accounts and begin building credit under your own name. Once all of your joint accounts are closed, wait two to three months before ordering a new copy of your credit report.
What About Taxes?
It is no secret that married couples are granted tax benefits. In fact, some married couples will remain legally separated to continue receiving these benefits, while others may hold off finalizing their divorce until after the upcoming tax season has come to a close. The issue with remaining legally separated only for the tax benefits is that you are still considered legally married and unable to remarry if the opportunity arises. Whenever you do come to the decision to file for divorce, you will need to notify the person or organization in charge of your taxes and update your withholdings to reflect your newly divorced status as either filing as Head of Household or Single when it comes to tax time.
Social Security, Insurance, and Retirement
Depending on how long you and your spouse were married, there may be a number of benefits allotted to you. Those who were married for over 10 years have the right to claim upon their former spouse’s social security benefits. It is important to keep copies of both your marriage license and divorce decree if this is the case so that once you are eligible, you have proof of your rights. In some cases, these benefits may not exceed your own, but for others, they may receive a larger benefit than they would without their former spouse’s contributions.
Many couples rely on each other for insurance coverage, both medical and life, based on which spouse’s company or employer provides better benefits. When it comes to medical insurance, you will likely no longer be eligible for coverage under your former spouse’s plan once your divorce has been finalized. You will need to take the time to explore your other options, and it is important that this is done immediately following your divorce to avoid being uninsured in the incident of an emergency. For example, if you suffer a sudden illness or injury that requires hospitalization or treatment. Car accidents often occur when you least expect them, so it is critical to be prepared by having the appropriate auto and health insurance so you can receive benefits for your damages.
You may also need to evaluate the need to obtain life insurance on your former spouse to replace any potential loss in the child or spousal support income. You and your spouse may also decide to obtain additional life insurance coverage to ensure that you will still have financial support to take care of your children in the instance that one of you passes away while still financially responsible for support.
If you and your spouse both shared a retirement account, the finances enclosed in the account will likely be considered marital assets. This means that the funds will be divided between the two of you during the asset division process. Dividing these finances can be complex since the early withdrawal of certain retirement funds can lead to steep penalties and taxes. Depending on what was agreed upon in your divorce settlement, a portion of the funds in your retirement account may be transferred from one spouse to the other. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is often used to transfer funds from a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k) or a 403(b). This court order allows funds to be withdrawn without incurring taxes or penalties, and the funds can be rolled over into a separate account held in the other spouse’s name. If a QDRO is required for your divorce, be sure to follow up to ensure that it is drafted, entered into, and implemented properly. Check with related pension plans, 401(k) administrators, and benefits departments to be sure that the QDRO is on file, up-to-date, and executed.
Updating Your Estate Plan
If you and your spouse had already created an estate plan, it is important to update the plans to reflect your new, separate lives. When it comes to estate plans, most married couples will leave the majority of their property to their spouse and the remaining portion to their children. Updating your estate plan may not be the first thing on your mind when your divorce is finalized, but it is an important step to take. Creating a will or trust helps protect your belongings in the event you become incapacitated or upon your death. Because these are unpredictable events, updating your estate plan should be immediate. Otherwise, your former spouse may still stand in line to receive all of the property and assets that you have accumulated over time. Additionally, if you have a living will or advance medical directive, you should remove your former spouse from having any decision-making responsibilities when it comes to your medical care. You may want to update it so your family members or close friends are named as the new beneficiaries or powers of attorney (POA).
Modifying at a Later Date
As the years go by, you may think that your divorce is completely behind you, and in some instances, it is. However, divorce agreements rarely last the true tests of time, especially any child-related issues outlined in the agreement. Perhaps your child custody arrangements are no longer applicable based on your and your co-parent’s work schedules, or you may find yourself unable to pay your monthly child support obligation because you recently lost your job. You and your former spouse may need to revisit the details of your divorce agreement and update the agreement so that it better fits your current lifestyles.
A common modification request that parents often make after a divorce is a relocation request. The state of Illinois requires parents to make an official request for relocation if they are the primary caregiver of their child. This is put in place to ensure that both parents are able to maintain a relationship with their child despite being divorced. The request will first be submitted to the co-parent for approval. If approved, the court will grant the relocation request. If denied, the court will make a decision regarding the relocation request based on what is in the child’s best interests.
Contact an Elmhurst Divorce Lawyer
Filing for divorce, and the remaining tasks that must be completed afterward can seem daunting and overwhelming. Whether you are in the divorce consideration stage or have already finalized your divorce and would like to revisit the details of your agreement, the qualified legal team at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC is here to help. We have extensive experience working for and against top family law firms in Chicago, giving us the top-level skills necessary to assist our clients while providing them with the personal attention that comes along with a boutique law firm. For help with your Illinois divorce or to modify your divorce agreement, call our dedicated and compassionate DuPage County divorce attorneys today at 312-605-4041 to schedule a private consultation.