Divorces, like weddings, are not all about the one “big day” when everything changes; rather, they take a lot of small but important decisions and moves in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly, and to make sure you and your children are protected. As a divorce attorney in Maryville, I help folks with more than just the paperwork, the mediation process and the trial proceedings; I also make sure that all of your unrelated-yet-still-related details are in order.
Because this is likely one of the most difficult times you will go through in your life – emotionally, financially and psychologically – it can be easy to rationalize making some important decisions later, instead of now. In my experience, though, it will be better for you later on down the line if you take care of some of these steps sooner, such as:
- Opening new accounts. All of your combined money and marital assets have to stay in both of your names until the judge divides it; in fact, under Tennessee law, you cannot close any joint accounts because certain statutory injunctions go into effect. (For the record, you can’t cancel any insurance policies or sell or transfer any of your marital assets, either.) However, you should open your own checking account, savings account and line of credit now, before your divorce is finalized. It can be really difficult to get another credit card in your own name after a divorce, so having an open line of credit can save you time and hassle later. Just don’t run up any charges on that line of credit, though, that you cannot afford to pay back with your own money, because that will not be included in your asset division.
- Change your passwords for everything. Make sure to choose a new, unrelated PIN number for those new accounts, and change your passwords for your social media, your work and home email and even your online shopping accounts. Write them all down in a book until you have thoroughly memorized them, and then get rid of those pages. (You can never be too careful when it comes to your online life, right?)
- Change the names on the utilities. If you are the person leaving the family home, you will need to open new accounts in your own name for your gas or oil, your water and sewer, your electric and your phone. But if you are the person who stays in the original dwelling, and you and your spouse have already decided not to sell that house, then those statutory injunctions may affect you here as well, especially if you are behind in any payments for those utilities. When you meet with me, make sure to bring copies of your latest utility bills, and we can discuss whether or not you can remove your soon-to-be former partner’s name from those accounts. Once the divorce is finalized, you and your spouse also need to sit down with the bank and have the deed and any mortgage accounts changed, too, if applicable.
- Edit your estate planning documents. Make sure that your will, any trusts and any directives have the right names for your new beneficiaries, and that any medical decisions will be handled by a sibling, child or parent as opposed to your ex.
- Set up a forwarding address for mail. You can have mail forwarded from one address to another anywhere in Tennessee to anywhere in the continental U.S. for free, for up to one year.
- Contact your doctors, accountants, creditors, etc. with your name change. If you’re changing your name, make sure your insurance policies, your doctor’s office and any other professional services have that new name for their records. You may also need to update your passport, your driver’s license and your Social Security number.
- Consider calling your child’s school. This is not necessary, of course, but it is worth considering. Children react differently to a divorce. Your child may begin to exhibit out-of-character behaviors, which may impact his or her schoolwork. While a divorce is deeply personal and certainly no one’s business, it might prove helpful to inform your child’s teachers, principal and counselor about what is happening, so that they are all prepared to help your child through any difficulties he or she may face.
You don’t have to do any of the things on this list before your divorce is final, but tackling them one by one might help you transition – and it might give you something to concentrate on while you contemplate the new life ahead of you. If you have any questions, you can always contact me, Kevin W. Shepherd, and schedule an appointment in my office in Maryville. I am always able and willing to help my clients when they need me most.