Congratulations! You have successfully settled your domestic case, avoided trial, and gotten divorced at a final hearing. Many parties feel a great sense of relief at this moment after the stressful litigation process comes to an end.
“So I’m done, right?”
Like so many answers in the legal field the answer starts with a “wellllll, maybe.”
First, you are not officially divorced until your Divorce Decree is signed by the judge and filed with the Clerk of Court. If your case has been settled for some time, then this will often happen the same day. But, if you settle on the day of trial, your attorney probably has not had an opportunity to prepare the written divorce decree. As such, it could be up to a month or more before the order is filed and you are officially divorced.
Second, most marital settlement agreements include provisions for the division of assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real property, etc. Some of these assets are easier to divide than others.
For example, it may be necessary to sell the former marital residence or refinance the mortgage encumbering the property to remove your ex-spouses name. Even if this is not part of the agreement, deeds will be necessary to transfer one party’s interest in the house to the other party.
Retirement accounts are another issue. If the agreement divides an ERISA controlled retirement account such as a 401k or a 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.
Finally, you may need to visit your bank with your ex-spouse to close out any joint accounts and transfer the funds accordingly. And it may be necessary to divide your personal property such as furniture, dishes, etc.
So, the relief is real. You are done, to a point. But it can often help to have an experienced family law attorney help you clean up after your final hearing.