When the judge has finally dropped the hammer and a signed divorce decree is in your hand, you may be tempted to ignore everything else for a while. Maybe you feel like you’ve been given a get out of jail free card, and this is your chance to celebrate. Or, maybe you are overwhelmed with emotion and need some serious TLC.
Either way, I want you to stay focused for just a little while longer and take some steps to protect yourself and your finances before you fully disengage.
Unfortunately, divorce can drastically impact a woman’s financial wellbeing. As a divorce coach, I always advise my clients to prioritize this area of their lives and do everything they can to set themselves up for future success.
Many of these steps will be outlined in your divorce agreement, along with timelines for how and when to complete them. But in general, you complete as many of these 7 steps as possible immediately after your divorce is final.
1. Cancel any credit cards you jointly hold with your ex
After you have the signed divorce decree, call your bank or credit card companies and have them cancel any joint credit cards or remove your ex from credit cards that you are the primary cardholder on. If this process leaves you without a credit card of your own, I recommend applying for a new one in your name only.
You may have to hold off on closing the account until any current charges are paid off. If that is the case, ask about “freezing” the card so that no new charges can be made on it. Removing your ex or freezing the card will prevent you from being liable for any new charges that your ex makes on a joint credit card after the divorce.
2. Close any joint savings accounts with your ex
Similarly, you will want to close any joint savings accounts that you held with their ex, or remove them if you are the primary account holder. Again, I recommend reopening a savings account in your name only, and transferring any of your current savings into the new account. Taking this step will prevent your ex from accessing your money and protect any funds you currently have.
3. Remove your name from any joint loans or debt accounts
If you and your ex have any joint debt accounts, call the creditor to have your name removed. Your divorce agreement should address which accounts you can do this for and who is responsible for what debts. Again, you want to protect yourself in the event that your ex defaults on payments. Even though you won’t be the one responsible, it can impact your credit score and make you liable for repaying those debts.
4. Change the beneficiaries on your savings and asset accounts
I’m going to guess that you’re no longer interested in having your ex benefit from your assets in the event that something happens to you! While you’re talking to the bank, make sure you change the beneficiaries on your savings accounts. Also update your life insurance plans and, if you have them, any retirement plan beneficiaries.
5. Update (or make) your will
Now is also a really good time to revisit and update your will. And if you don’t have one, make one! It might be tempting to put this one off, but I really recommend updating it as soon as possible. If something happens to you before you update it, your ex will still benefit from your assets.
Having a will will make it much easier for the people around you to handle your assets and belongings after you’re gone. And it will potentially spare your children, if you have any, from legal fights with the state or other relatives over who has the right to your assets.
6. Update your important accounts with your maiden name
If you are dropping your old married name and taking back your maiden name, you will need to update it on your social security card, driver’s license, passport, and any other identification documents. Also update your last name on your bank, credit card, debt, student loans, and utility accounts. If you’ve moved, make sure you also give them your new mailing address.
I highly suggest making sure you have a scanned copy of your divorce decree or name change documentation to make this process easier. Most places will ask for proof of your name change.
7. Change your online financial passwords
Finally, you may not think your ex has access to any of your accounts or passwords, but I highly recommend updating your passwords anyway. Consider using a password manager like LastPass or Keepass Password Safe if you have trouble keeping track of what your passwords are. These apps generate strong passwords and require you to sign in with a master password to fill in account information.
When updating your passwords, think about bank accounts, email addresses, payment accounts such as Paypal, Venmo, or Google Wallet, social media accounts, and any other personal accounts you might have.
I know it can be overwhelming to think about doing all of these things immediately after a divorce. Even if your divorce process has been relatively painless, it’s still highly emotional to divide up the elements of the life you had together and build a new, independent future.
However, taking care of these details will help set you up for a more successful financial future, and you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself in that way.
Are you ready to feel joy again, reclaim your independence, and chart a path toward healing and recovery? I would love to help you as you take those steps. Check out my guide on 7 Ways to Rebuild Your Confidence During Divorce, with real, practical tips on how to start taking control of your story and create the life you have been dreaming about!