Progress is impossible without change, but that doesn't make change easy. If you have decided that you must move on from your marriage, realize that the act of divorcing involves not one big change but many small ones. Although you are not allowed to bump your spouse off insurance policies or make big purchases while your divorce is pending, there are many steps you can take, during and after a divorce, to move toward an independent life.
Change Bank Accounts
It pays to think about financial independence sooner rather than later once a parting of the ways becomes likely. You may consider opening individual checking and savings accounts in your own name and arrange for direct deposit of your wages and any other periodic revenue disbursements. Consider converting the old joint checking account into an interim account for household expenses. You also need to notify your credit card companies of your divorce and request new accounts in your name.
Rewrite Legal Documents
It's a good idea to review wills and living trusts on a regular basis, but it is essential to update these legal documents after a divorce. You may wish to remove your former spouse as a beneficiary, executor or trustee. Be sure you follow the legal procedure to amend these documents; it may be easier to simply draft new documents from forms valid in your state, generally available from the court system and online legal services providers.
Change Pay-on-Death Beneficiaries
Many financial companies give you the option to name a beneficiary to receive your life insurance, investment accounts, retirement accounts and even simple checking accounts when you die. Review your accounts for pay-on-death beneficiaries and change the designation as appropriate.
Review Powers of Attorney
Review any powers of attorney you have executed. These legal documents name an individual to make financial or health care decisions for you. If the power of attorney is durable, the authority remains in full force even if you become incompetent.
Alter Living Arrangements
Housing is another immediate consideration for a divorcing couple. Although some spouses manage to split a house during a divorce, many find this impossible. Figure out your own preferences, and then talk with your spouse about who should stay and who should go. Often a spouse with custody of the children keeps a family home, but not always. If you or your spouse owns the house, discuss any decisions with your attorney before acting to be sure your choices will not impact custody or property division issues.
Decide on Name Changes
As your divorce proceeds through the court, you will have the opportunity to consider myriad other changes including your name. If you changed your last name when you married, you can ask the judge to change it back as part of the divorce order. Alternatively, you can seek a name change after the divorce is completed in a separate family law action. You can also ask the family law court to change the last name of your minor children once you are divorced, although the court will take the other parent's viewpoint into account.