Your Post-Divorce Compass

Posted On December 1st, 2020 by Michael Dunham

The Book

“Your Post-Divorce Compass: Practical, Real-World Advice for the Newly Single” is a comprehensive workbook designed to help someone who is recently divorced sort out “everyday life” issues like updating insurance beneficiaries, automating finances, and hiring the right financial advisors. Written by a family lawyer with over a decade of experience, this book complements the many excellent resources which exist for helping divorcees deal with their emotional and spiritual crises by methodically guiding the reader through a host of financial matters. The book’s unique, “one task per day” mentality also empowers the reader by turning a complex mass of problems into a manageable group of tasks.

The book’s author, Michael R. Dunham, Esq., graduated from Emory University School of Law in 2002 and has been a practicing trial lawyer in the Metro Atlanta area ever since. Family law has always been a big part of Mike’s practice. Throughout his career, Mike has helped hundreds of people through their divorce cases, and now through this book, Mike looks forward to being able to help them after the dust settles.

The List

The core of the book is “the list” – 30 tasks you should consider taking care of once your divorce has been finalized. Here it is:


Here are the steps:
1. Open a joint account with a minimum deposit, ideally at your former spouse’s bank.
2. Find out if your employer can directly deposit funds from your paycheck to this new joint account.
3. Write a letter or an email to your former spouse explaining what you’ve set up.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Determine whether you are eligible to have an IDO entered in the first place.
2. Assuming you are eligible, draft the IDO. [download a sample here]
3. Prepare any other documents required by your state for an IDO to be entered and processed correctly.
4. Forward the IDO to the Court, with a cover letter asking for a certified copy to be mailed back to you.
5. Once you have a certified copy of your IDO in hand, send it to your former spouse’s employer’s payroll or human resources department.
6. Once you can confirm the IDO is in place and the employer is withholding money and paying it over to you, follow up with your former spouse if there is an outstanding support balance that may have accrued in the interim.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.

For more information about IDO’s specific to your state, select from the drop-down list below:


Here are the steps:
1. Read them.
2. Get a pad of paper and go back through the reports, writing out all of the issues you found in one place.
3. Start working the phones.
4. Use your notes to write letters or emails confirming your conversations.
5. For debts that are your former spouse’s responsibility, write him a letter or email asking him to resolve them.
6. Work with the creditor (as necessary) to come up with a plan to retire any debts that are legitimately your responsibility.
7. Calendar yourself to pull your credit reports again next year so you can check your progress.

www.AnnualCreditReport.com/

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Get a copy of your divorce decree and/or agreement to bring with you.
2. Go visit a branch of the bank (credit union, etc.) where the account was held.
3. If there are funds in the account that belong to you, withdraw them.
4. If there are funds in the account that belong to your former spouse, ask him to withdraw them.
5. Direct the bank to close the account.
6. Ask the bank to verify there are no other joint accounts which remain open.
7. Repeat Steps 2-6 with other banks.
8. Don’t forget about credit cards and other unsecured debts.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Notify all of the following:

  • Every creditor listed on your credit report
  • Every creditor you currently have, even if they’re not listed on your credit report
  • Every bank or other financial institution where you have an account
  • All of your utilities servicing your home

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Make sure you did, in fact, get your maiden name back.
2. Get a certified copy of your divorce decree.
3. Download a copy of the “Application for a Social Security Card”, print it out, and fill it out.
4. Mail the completed Application and the certified copy of your divorce decree to the Social Security office as directed.

www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. You’ll need a certified copy of your divorce decree.
2. If your address changed, you’ll need proof of your new residence address.
3. Bring these documents to the nearest DMV office.

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/services/correction.html#Changes

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Come up with your own personal, difficult-to-guess passphrase.
2. Modify the passphrase by capitalizing the first letter of each word and removing the spaces.
3. Add the three-letter prefix of your phone number.
4. Add a “special character”, such as a period or an underscore.
5. For each web site, take the first five letters of the domain name.
6. Add this little bit of the domain name to your passphrase, and you have an easily remembered, yet unique password for that web site.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Strategies to build an emergency fund:

  • Commit to transferring some regular amount – $100, $50, even $10 or $20 if that’s all you can afford – every month, or every time you get a paycheck.
  • Some banks allow you to make automatic transfers to savings whenever you make a transaction in your checking account.
  • You could have a yard sale or sell some items on eBay to declutter, and put the proceeds into savings.
  • You could take on odd jobs or freelance work.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Pick one of your monthly utility payments, ideally one with a fairly regular payment, which is less than the limit on your card and which can be paid by credit card.
2. With a copy of your most recent utility bill in hand, go online and set up recurring monthly payments on that card.
3. Make sure you pay off the card every month.
4. Put the card somewhere safe.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Make a list of all your accounts.
2. Contact the plan administrator for each account and ask them to send you whatever paperwork you need to change the beneficiary in the event of a divorce.
3. Get certified copies of your divorce decree, enough to send one to each institution that requires it.
4. Fill out the paperwork and send it in.
5. Calendar yourself to follow up in about six weeks to verify your beneficiary designation has been updated.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. If you don’t have coverage, go apply for coverage.
2. If you do have coverage, contact your agent and verify your beneficiary designation.
3. If necessary, obtain the necessary forms to change your beneficiaries and fill them out.
4. Forward the appropriate paperwork to your agent and ask him/her to provide you with proof of coverage once the beneficiaries have been changed.
5. Provide proof of coverage to your former spouse.
6. Put a note on your calendar eleven months from now to ask your agent for updated proof of coverage.
7. Put another note on your calendar when you expect your obligation to provide life insurance coverage to your former spouse under the divorce decree/agreement will expire.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. You’ll need a copy of the most recent retirement statement for the account from which the transfer will be initiated that you can find, and a certified copy of your divorce decree.
2. If you don’t already have one, open an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) where the funds transferred from your former spouse’s plan will be deposited.
3. Call the plan and track down the account representative assigned to your former spouse’s account.
4. Ask the account rep to email you their form QDRO, if they have one, or the checklist they use when they receive a new QDRO, if they don’t.
5. Draft a proposed QDRO.
6. Send your proposed QDRO to the plan with a written request that they respond to confirm the QDRO will be acceptable to the plan if entered in its current form.
7. Once you have confirmation from the plan that the form of the QDRO is acceptable, forward it to the Court with a cover letter requesting it be entered.
8. Once the QDRO has been entered by the Court, forward a certified copy of it to the plan.
9. Follow up with the account rep to ensure the funds are transferred as quickly and smoothly as possible.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Get Health Insurance


Get Life Insurance


Get Umbrella Insurance


Update Your Estate Plan


Know the answers to these nine questions before you talk to a lender:
1) What is your current total monthly payment?
2) Does your payment include your taxes and insurance?
3) What is the cost of your annual property taxes and homeowners insurance?
4) How much do you owe on your existing mortgage?
5) When did you take out your existing mortgage?
6) Do you know if it’s a Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHA insured loan?
7) What are your overall goals in refinancing your mortgage (shorten your term, lower your rate, lower your payment, something else)?
8) How much do you think your home will appraise for?
9) What is your property’s address?

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Find a copy of the deed to your house.
2. Find a sample form.
3. Fill out the form for your house.
4. Make sure to include signature blocks for both grantors, i.e., both you and your former spouse.
5. Have the quit-claim deed fully executed.
6. Have the original quit-claim deed recorded against your property.
7. When you get the recorded quit-claim deed back, put it in a safe place.

A note of caution: in some states, an instrument of conveyance of real property – such as a deed conveying a house from two former spouses to one of the former spouses, removing the other’s name from the title – must be prepared by an attorney. In those states, if you are not a lawyer and try to prepare this instrument yourself, you may be guilty of “unauthorized practice of law”, for which there may be potential criminal penalties. If you live in such a state, then you have to engage a lawyer to handle this for you. If you’re not sure, hiring a lawyer is the safest course of action.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Find the original title certificate to your vehicle.
2. Have your spouse sign the title over to you on the original title certificate.
3. Have the issuing authority (generally, the “department of motor vehicles” or “department of driver services”) re-issue the title certificate.
4. When you receive the re-issued title certificate, keep it with your other important papers.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here are the steps:
1. Update your homeowner’s, renter’s, and/or automobile insurance now that your former spouse is no longer on the mortgage, lease, and/or title to your property.
2. Consider obtaining or updating other insurance coverages as your finances allow.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Some reasons to consider hiring an accountant:

  • Your income is reasonably high (over $120,000/year).
  • You own an interest in a small business.
  • You are selling, have sold, or are considering selling real estate and/or an interest in a business.
  • Your estate plan is anything more complicated than “leave all my money to ___”.
  • You have a child in college.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Some reasons to consider hiring a planner:

  • If you and your former spouse had a planner together, you should find someone else, especially if your former spouse is sticking with your old planner.
  • If you received a substantial amount of retirement and/or other financial assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.) in the divorce, you need a financial planner, especially if you have no experience managing such assets.
  • If you have more than three retirement/financial accounts, you need a financial planner to make sure it’s all part of a coherent plan.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here’s a partial list of documents to consider shredding:

  • any document listing your (or your children’s) birth dates, Social Security numbers, a password or “PIN” (even if you have never used it)
  • anything you would carry in your wallet but which has expired or been cancelled (driver’s license, military ID, credit card, etc.)
  • pay stubs
  • retirement account statements
  • bank and credit card statements
  • if your name changed, anything with your old name that you don’t need to keep for some other reason (e.g., tax returns that are less than seven years old)

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Here’s a partial list of documents to consider keeping in a safe:

  • birth and death certificates
  • your will, powers of attorney, and other estate-planning documents
  • unexpired life insurance policies
  • certified copies of your divorce paperwork

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Get Extra Certified Copies of Important Documents


Get Proof of Life Insurance from Your Spouse


Go Through Every Room in Your Home


Here are the steps:
1. Make a list of every single debt you have.
2. Sort the list according to the total amount currently due, listing the smallest balance first.
3. Call every creditor and see if they will renegotiate any of your payment terms.
4. If you have the cash to do so, pay off as many of your debts as you can in a lump sum.
5. Sort the list again according to the total amount currently due, listing the smallest balance first.
6. If you have multiple credit cards, go through the list and figure out which credit card you have had the longest.
7. Figure out how much you need every month to pay your needed bills.
8. Determine how much “discretionary” income you have after covering your regular expenses.
9. Commit to paying your “discretionary” income toward the debt at the top of your list, in addition to the minimum monthly payment due to that creditor, every month until that debt is paid.
10. Automate all of your other debt payments so you don’t have to think about – dwell on – any of them.
11. When you eventually pay off a debt, commit to paying your “discretionary” income – which now includes the minimum monthly payment on the debt you just retired – toward the next debt on the list.

There is a lot more information and detail in the book. If you need more help, and the motivation and a system to get everything on the list done, then you should definitely consider buying the book.


Review Your Divorce Paperwork, One More Time

If you work through this whole list, don’t forget about “Day 31” – CELEBRATE!

Tools

NOTE: These are all coming soon; as they become available, the following will change from static text to hyperlinks.

Form: Income Deduction Order (“IDO”) DOCX ODT TXT
Form: Cover Letter to Send IDO to Judge DOCX ODT TXT
Form: Notice Letter to Employer DOCX ODT TXT
Form: Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) DOCX ODT TXT
Form: Cover Letter to Send QDRO to Judge DOCX ODT TXT
Form: Letter to Former Spouse Requesting
Proof of Life Insurance Coverage
DOCX ODT TXT

Resources

Children Going Through Divorce – Recommended Reading

NOTE: All links are Amazon.com affiliate links. Thank you!

$29.95

Buy on Amazon

Partners

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