You can breathe a sigh of relief. You made it through the final divorce hearing and are ready to move on. But, not so fast … while the stressful litigation process has ended, there are still loose ends that can’t be overlooked. So, what happens when the gloves come off? Is the fight really over?
First, you are not officially divorced until your Divorce Decree is signed by a judge and filed with the Clerk of Court. If you settle on the day of your trial, chances are your attorney has not had an opportunity to prepare the written divorce decree. If this is the case, it could be up to a month or more before the order is filed and you are officially divorced.
Second, most divorce settlements include provisions related to the division of assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real property, etc. Some of these assets are easier to divide than others. For example:
- if you owned a home together, it may be necessary to sell the home or refinance the mortgage removing your ex-spouse’s name. You will need to undergo the necessary paperwork to transfer one party’s interest in the house to the other party. There also is the task of dividing personal property such as furniture, dishes, and family heirlooms.
- if you have retirement accounts together and the agreement divides an ERISA controlled retirement account such as a 401k or pension plan, then a supplemental order called a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO (pronounced KWAD-ro) is required. This order allows the receiving party to avoid tax consequences usually associated with such a transfer. Further, although most IRAs do not require a QDRO, it might be necessary to prepare and sign transfer documents to divide an IRA.
- if you had a joint bank account, you may need to visit your bank with your ex-spouse to close out all joint accounts and transfer funds accordingly.
So, while the relief at the final hearing is real, it may be short-lived until you can officially close the door on all the loose ends. During this difficult time, it is always helpful to have an experienced family law attorney at your side to help you clean up after the final hearing.