Post Divorce Checklist and Warnings
By Mark A. Chinn, Family Law Attorney, Jackson, Mississippi
A lot of thought goes into procuring a divorce and properly drafting an agreement or trying a lawsuit, but there seems to be little thought given to some of the details following divorce. Here is a basic guide to some of the things you should think about after your divorce is entered.
Most divorce orders provide for some type of sharing of non covered medical bills. The best way to handle payment of medical bills is for the person obtaining the service to send the bill to the other person with an enclosure letter, keeping a copy. Extraordinary, non emergency expenses should not be incurred without prior notification to the other parent. Orthodontic expenses may not be included in reimbursement orders so such expenses should never be incurred without prior consultation with the other spouse and your attorney. Documentation of medical expenses is essential to obtaining reimbursement. In court, the person seeking reimbursement will have to prove they submitted the bill to the other party before the court will hold them accountable for failure to reimburse.
CREDIT CARDS AND OTHER DEBTS
Many people have so many credit cards that they don’t even remember what cards they have. They certainly don’t remember exactly whose name is on the cards. After entry of the divorce do some double checking on what credit cards you have and make sure your former spouse does not still have privileges to use the card.
Almost all orders of divorce divide the family cars. Often times, these cars are jointly titled, or titled in the ex spouse’s name. Investigate the title to your car and make sure it is properly placed only in your name. Also, in some states, the transfer of the car from one ownership to another may generate the responsibility to obtain a new car tag or license and failure to do that in a timely fashion can result in a ticket and/or a penalty.
Make sure your ex spouse is not still listed as an authorized user on any of your bank accounts.
I have seen cases where people have divorced and failed to change beneficiaries on life insurance policies and pension funds. This leads to the very unfortunate result that a former spouse might collect the benefits. Double check all beneficiary designations at the time of your divorce. Check with your employer to make sure your spouse is not still a beneficiary on any employer provided benefits, such as life insurance policies which might be connected to health insurance policies.
Make sure you obtain from your former spouse the health insurance information you need to make claims such as, Claim Forms, Card and Pre-certification information. If you are going to remain on a policy maintained by your former spouse, immediately check for yourself what needs to be done to keep the insurance in place. Insurance policy rules and Federal Cobra rules often have time deadlines and written notice requirements.
Wills, advanced health directives and powers of attorney should have been changed long before a divorce is entered (unless prohibited by court order), but the entry of the divorce is a good time to review these matters and remove your ex spouse from these documents.
Most lawyers receive a course in taxation in law school, but most family lawyers are not qualified to give detailed tax advise. Check with your CPA upon entry of your divorce to see what impact the divorce has on your tax situation and what steps you need to take. Here are some things to think about:
1. Child support is general not includable in the receivers income, nor deductible to the payer.
2. Some forms of alimony are includable in the receivers income. The receiver should make sure they withhold some of the alimony to pay taxes so they don’t get hit with a surprise tax bill at tax time.
3. Dependent tax exemptions. The IRS has rules as to who gets to claim children as dependents. If you are the non custodial parent and you are entitled by the divorce order to an exemption, make sure your ex spouse signs the IRS form waiving that exemption.
5. Part or all of your attorney fees may be deductible. Ask you CPA right away.
6. If you change your address, go on the IRS web site and get the form necessary to notify them of your change of address.
7. You may be eligible to file as “Head of Household” for tax purposes. Review the that possibility with your CPA.
Disputes often arise in the post divorce period over timely payment of support, visitation and custody. Try to document what you and your former spouse do. Keep a diary or log of things. Confirm arrangements in writing and keep a copy. If you are making payments, get documentation. Use a check or get a receipt. Keep track of the timeliness of payments. Keep track of visitation periods or events that your former spouse could have exercised but did not.
© Mark Chinn. All Rights Reserved. Mark Chinn is a Clinical advisor for ParentRise.com. He has a perfect 5.0 “Preeminent Rating” in Family Law with Lawyers.com. He is the author of three American Bar Association Books, entitled, How to Build and Manage a Family Law Practice, The Constructive Divorce, and Forms, Checklistsand Procedures for the Family Lawyer. Mr. Chinn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.