How to Doublecheck Your Attorney’s Work Before You Sign a Judgment of Divorce
Hopefully, you started the divorce process correctly and hired a great attorney who has experience and with whom you formed a great working relationship that allows you to ask questions and allows your attorney to fully learn your intentions. Besides this most important first step, here are some considerations before you sign that Judgment of Divorce.
- Get A Second Opinion.
If you are not confident about your attorney’s abilities or if your working relationship is very poor, now is the time to get a second opinion and potentially fire your attorney. Depending on how you arrived at this draft of the Judgment, you may be able to change some or all the terms. Once it’s signed, you’re pretty much out of options. Take the time to get it right the first time, rather than regretting the results later after it’s too late!
- Read the Judgment; and read it again, and again.
Although this may sound like common sense, clients are often worn out of the process by the time they have to sign the Judgment. When the divorce is filed, clients usually are actively involved with their attorney and the case. But over time they learn to trust their attorney, and the litigation wears them out. By the time the Judgment needs to be reviewed, the client wants it done and may not read it thoroughly. Don’t fall into this trap. Take a few days to read that Judgment and imagine possible pitfalls. Schedule a consultation with your attorney to have each of the terms explained to you. Be sure you understand each part of the Judgment because once it is entered with the court, you are bound by it.
- Consider, discuss, and maybe get a professional’s opinion about the tax consequences.
Consider the tax consequences of the assets awarded to you. For example, the value of the home that you want to have awarded to you is different than the value of the pre-tax contributions to a retirement account.
If you have the option of postponing and finalizing your divorce at the beginning of the next year (and still filing your taxes jointly and married), you may derive a greater tax benefit. Alternatively, if you expect to receive a significant refund and you are not required to split that refund, you may want to finalize the divorce as soon as possible.
It is always good practice to have your accountant review the Judgment and give you his or her professional opinion. Most attorneys are not accountants, and they cannot give you tax advice like an accountant can.
- The benefits of life insurance.
If the Judgment provides that you will receive child support or spousal support, you may request that you are listed as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy to secure continuation of those payments in the event of the payor’s death. This is a helpful provision that will protect your support in the future.
- Finalize the Judgment After Signing.
After that sigh of relief, there still is a lot of work to do. Read the Judgment again and follow its directives. In most cases, you are required to close joint accounts. Transfer utilities in or out of your name, and certainly out of joint names. Pay special attention if your Judgment awarded you a portion of your spouse’s retirement. You may need a Domestic Relations Order prepared. You will benefit from doing this right away because it is unlikely that you remember to do so ten years later, and in some instances that will not be possible. Often the Judgment has deadlines for you or your former spouse to take certain steps. Put those dates on your calendar.
Hire a Grand Rapids Divorce Attorney for a Worry-Free Judgment
When you sign that Judgment of Divorce, your goal should be the least amount of future conflict with your ex-spouse. Contact the divorce attorneys at Kraayeveld Law at 616-285-0808 to make sure that you accomplish your goals and wishes. We look forward to working with you to create a worry-free Judgment of Divorce.