17 Steps to Take after Divorce

divorce steps

Divorce can be a long process and a huge upheaval. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on practical matters during an emotionally trying time. After the divorce comes through, it is time to take stock and establish your financial independence.  You will set yourself up for success during this transition and into your future.

I advise my clients to take some simple steps after their divorce with their finances, their technology and in their approach to their future as they transition to their new, single life.


  1. Review your beneficiaries on all insurance policies, bank accounts and brokerage accounts, and change them if necessary. This includes retirement plans (401K, pensions, IRAs), life insurance, some brokerage or savings accounts, etc.
  2. Update your will. It is likely that you will need to change your beneficiaries and your executor.
  3. Update your health care proxy forms, HIPAA releases, and medical authorization forms.
  4. Close any joint back accounts and credit cards and open separate accounts in your name, if you’ve been sharing finances.
  5. Update your W-4 form if you are changing the number of dependents with your new single status.
  6. Tell your human resources director about the divorce to reflect your new status.  You may have to obtain health insurance through COBRA or the Affordable Care Act, or to take your ex off of your plan.
  7. If you have changed your name,  you will need to update your driver’s license, passport, social security account, professional licensing associations and other forms of identification.
  8. Change the name of the deed to your home and on the mortgage, if that’s part of your separation agreement.


  1. Establish systems for how you and your spouse will exchange money—whether it’s via bank transfer, a check or a third party service such as PayPal or Venmo. Make sure there is a record of any monies transferred; it is easy to check your records if there is a dispute.
  2. Plan how you and your ex will communicate. Will you use phone, text, or email? Many find a shared calendar onGoogle, an app such as Our Family Wizard , 2 houses (www.2houses.com), co-Parently,  or Two Happy Homes  can be a valuable tool to organize schedules, send messages and keep track of finances for children going back and forth between households.
  3. Set up technology like FaceTime or Skype so that you can communicate with your child when he/she is at the other parent’s home. Do the same thing to make sure your child can stay in touch with her other parent when she is at your house.


  1. Help your child set up his new room so that it is comfortable and a wonderful place to be. Help him feel at home in his new space.
  2. Make sure you spend time with your child and answer her questions. Reaffirm that the divorce is absolutely not your child’s fault—then remind her again.
  3. Create a checklist for your child to make sure he has everything he needs when going back and forth between houses.
  4. Keep promises to your child, ex, and to yourself. This is a transition for everybody, and change is always hard. Be dependable. Act in a way you feel good about.
  5. Take care of yourself in healthy ways, whether it’s making sure you get rest, exercise, healthy food and/or emotional support. Be there 100% for yourself.
  6. Act out of love, not out of fear. This is easier said than done—but a powerful intention during hard times and great times.

Taking the time to make these changes now will save you from a lot of angst later on. Remember, you are starting a new chapter in your life.  Make sure your paper trail reflects that!

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About Joy Rosenthal

Joy S. Rosenthal, Esq. is an experienced, caring New York City-based Family and Divorce Professional Mediator and Attorney. Joy founded Rosenthal Law & Mediation in 2006 to use both law and mediation as a tool to help families as they move through transitions. Her services include Divorce Mediation and Elder (adult sibling) Mediation, Adoptions, Collaborative Divorce, and representation in custody and visitation disputes. She also offers wills and estate planning. Visit Joy at www.joyrosenthal.com.

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