Immediately before and after a divorce and a judgment is entered concerning particular arrangements of assets and properties the transference of such properties may become exceedingly difficult if there is a lack of organization. The first step is to make a list from the judgment of particular items that may need to be addressed – it is important to address this list with the attorney to ensure that all priorities are listed and that there aren’t any loose ends on the part of anyone else. If there are loose ends it is important to tie them up and handle them prior to executing the steps listed for the completion of the court decree. It is your responsibility to ensure that all steps are taken by other professionals to fulfill obligations, including your attorney; it is not uncommon for professionals to miss small steps following a legal action if not reminded.
If a loose end is not accounted for in this process than the failure for accommodating the obligation will only reflect poorly on you which is why it is important to address these types of concerns up front before they are forgotten in the midst of handling other listed obligations. When the master list is complete make an organized folder for the itemized list with each folder containing the necessary paperwork to address the transfer of each item. For example, one may make a folder for transferring deed to a home, title to a vehicle, or holder information to an account or retirement plan. Once the list and all documentation is complete it is important to either send the items certified mail or to send them email- so that there is a paper trail of where the documents were received by the other ex-spouse. Be sure to keep all proof of email or copies of other items delivered to your ex-spouse because if a problem were to arise then the correspondences may be used to enforce the judgment.
Items that should be Secured and Organized Before and Following a Divorce:
1) Birth and death certificates
2) Marriage license
3) Divorce related agreements and judgments
4) Passport and other citizenship papers
6) Car Titles
7) Mortgage agreements
8) Inventory/ photos of household property
9) Tax returns last 6 years
10) Insurance policies
11) Bank, brokerage, and mutual fund statements
12) Employment benefit documents – including brochures
13) Employment agreements
14) Deferred compensation agreements
15) Stock option plans
16) Keogh and IRA documents and current benefit statements
17) Business documents- partnership agreements, tax returns, stock redemption/ buy-sell agreements, and financial statements
18) Trust documents
19) Wills, powers of attorney, advanced directives, etc.
20) Children’s documents in separate files including, birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, educational evaluations, etc.
The Next Step:
After all documents are organized and an itemized account has been made and the ex-spouse is given notification of all items listed for exchange then a meeting date and time may be presented for the exchange of the items. The items should be provided in the manner depicted by the final agreement which may have set particular deadlines or conditions for the manner in which the items are to be exchanged. Again create a paper trail which demonstrates the meeting arrangement to exchange properties. If property is not being distributed in accordance to the final decree then you may ask for the ex-spouse formal to abide by the order or face further legal action. On the other hand if the ex-spouse refuses to accept an exchange of ownership than you may ask in writing for permission to discard the items/ property following a deadline that determines when the property will be disposed without recourse.
Some exchanges of property will require special third-party handling through a special court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). This type of order is necessary in transfers concerning retirement plans and once entered by the court it will require the administrator of the account to transfer the funds as per court order. Other payments; such as, child support or alimony should provide a paper trail and all copies should be retained on file. Payments should never be accepted in the form of cash. All related billing and cost related to child or alimony should be documented and all paper evidence should be retained. Overall maintain all documentation following the divorce proceeding and build upon the organization/ retention of files even following the divorce.