If you have recently received a judgment for your divorce case, you are likely feeling a mixture of emotions. You may be surprised by the judgment, happy or hurt. Regardless of what you're currently experiencing, you need to understand what your options are so that you can save time, money and future litigation. Before you allow your emotions to get the better of you, contact your divorce lawyer so that you can thoroughly review the judgment together.
What Do I Do Next?
The best possible thing you can do for you and your family is to remain calm and take appropriate action. When you have legal guidance from the beginning, you are less likely to run into any problems down the road. Know what you're responsible for so that you and everyone involved can move forward.
After you have discussed the judgment with your lawyer, here's what you need to do:
1. Know Your Options
Just because you have received a judgment doesn't mean that the decision is written in stone. If there is a portion of the judgment that you feel is unfair, you'll need to speak with your lawyer to review any possible options. If you do feel as though you were misrepresented within the judgment, there are two options: either appeal the judgment or ask the judge to modify the ruling. In many circumstances, you will need to demonstrate a change of circumstances to modify the order. Your success will depend on your personal circumstances. We handle modifications as well as post judgment appeals.
2. Make a Plan
Whether you're happy with the judgment or it's been finalized without any other options, you will need to meet with your lawyer to plan the next steps. Deciding how to implement the judgment is critical, especially when finances or children are involved. When you meet with your lawyer, bring a list regarding the requirements in the judgment. What is it that you and your former spouse need to do, in addition to what your lawyer needs to do? Make sure this list is complete and if you require any portion of the file, this is the time to ask for a copy. Make sure that you complete any of the requirements before attempting to modify the order. Often times the court may have ordered parenting or co-parenting classes, these will need to be completed before requesting a modification of custody and visitation.
3. Address Outstanding Legal Fees
At this time, you may owe your lawyer outstanding fees. This is particularly the case if the judgment was the result of a contested trial. Each situation is unique, so it's best to discuss your options immediately. In some cases, your spouse may be ordered to pay for some of your legal fees, and in other cases, marital assets will fund your outstanding bill. If you are out of options, a payment plan will be your best bet.
The worst thing you can do is ignore your lawyer. Failing to communicate and avoiding payments could result in your lawyer withdrawing from the case before implementing tasks in relation to the judgment.
4. Protect Yourself -- Make Changes to All Accounts
You need to protect yourself after a divorce, which means changing all account passwords and even closing certain accounts. This will eliminate any unwanted surprises down the road. Be sure to do the following:
- Close all joint accounts (mortgages, investments, lines of credit and so on).
- Change all passwords, especially for your online bank account.
- Address your insurance and make any changes regarding beneficiary arrangements.
- Change all credit cards and open a new card in your name only. Use it wisely, building excellent credit.
- Change your wills, as well as the name on any recurring bills.
5. Stay Organized
After you have finalized the checklist that you reviewed with your lawyer, it will be time to break down each component into a separate file. For example, transferring the house will be its own file, whereas the transfer of retirement accounts will be another. That way, all related documents can be placed in their own specific folder, keeping everything organized. It's also recommended that you make a file that specifically holds all communications with your ex-partner. Print emails where you have notified your spouse, as these can be useful if your spouse is not cooperating.
6. Notify Third Parties
The sooner you notify all third parties, the better. This includes your employer (in order to complete a new form W-4), the Social Security Administration (by submitting a completed Form SS-5), the IRS (regarding a changed address and marital status) and your bank. This is the time to change all of your records, including your driver's license and passport.
7. When Children Are Involved
Although divorce is an emotional experience, it's important to stick to the schedule ordered by the court. This judgment will be in the best interest of the children, so try to put the past behind you. When communicating with your ex-partner, it's best to do so via email so that there's a written file. If there are issues in the future, these files can help your lawyer modify the original judgment. Most importantly, stay on top of child support payments. If there is a change in your income, you will need to seek a modification. Contact your lawyer so that they can advise you regarding the current options.
Once a judgment is made, the best thing you can do is move on. Being proactive from the beginning can assist you and your lawyer in the future. Just remember to maintain good communication with your lawyer and keep accurate records. This will make the process much easier for everyone involved, saving you time and money.
If you have any post judgments questions or concerns, please contact the Family Law Offices of H. William Edgar.