After you and your former spouse have successfully completed the mediation process, there are some important steps that you will need to take next. Of course, the specifics of these steps will depend on what was agreed upon at mediation, as well as your personal circumstances. This is meant to be a general guide, so all of these steps may not be applicable in your case.
Financial Steps to Take Following Mediation
Some of the most important things you will need to take care of following your mediation involve financial matters. Most likely, you and your former spouse will have financial accounts in both of your names. Based on what you agreed on during mediation, you will need to make sure that all financial accounts are either in one party’s name only or closed completely.
Another step you will need to take is to obtain a copy of your credit report. Take the time to carefully review your credit report to make sure that it is accurate. If there is anything amiss with the credit report, make sure that you take steps to rectify these errors as soon as possible so that there is less of an impact on your credit.
If you and your former spouse have credit cards that are in both of your names, you will need to make changes to the accounts that reflect what had been agreed upon in your agreement. Many couples have joint credit cards, so it is important that you each move forward with accounts solely in your own name to avoid charges made by your former spouse. When there is an outstanding balance on your credit card, most credit card companies will not cancel the card until it is paid in full. However, you can ask the credit card company to freeze any additional charges to the card, so there will be no additional charges to be responsible for. Sometimes, opening a new card or cards, and transferring the balance owed is a way to accomplish closing the original card. Now each of you will have your own obligations under your respective name or names.
Things to Take Care of In Connection with Your Residence
Whether your former spouse will continue to reside in your former marital home for a period of time, or if your home will be transferred into his or her name alone, you will want to make arrangements for the utility bills be transferred into the name of the person remaining in the home.
In addition, if your home is in joint name, and ownership is being transferred to one of you alone, it is important to have a new deed and transfer forms executed and filed in the office of the County Clerk in the county in which your home is located.
The STAR Tax Exemption
The School Tax Relief Program (STAR) gives eligible New York State homeowners a break on property taxes. If you currently receive this tax exemption, you probably will want to ensure that you continue to receive it going forward, if possible. If there is a change in ownership to the home, you will need to reapply for the exemption with your assessor. There is a limited period of time in which you must do this, so make sure that you understand the process before changing ownership of the home. There have been some changes to this program recently, so you will need to make sure that you continue to qualify before moving forward.
Vehicle-Related Considerations After Mediation
If you and your spouse owned vehicles together, you will need to make sure that you change the title of any vehicle that you are keeping in your own name. If your spouse is keeping another vehicle, make sure that the title to that vehicle reflects the new ownership. Another thing you will need to take care of (if you own vehicles together) is to make sure that you change the car insurance policy so that it is in your name only. Your soon-to-be former spouse will need to do the same.
Other Things to Remember to Take Care of After Your Successful Mediation Session
In addition to making necessary changes to financial accounts, and ownership of the house and vehicles, there are many other miscellaneous things you may need to also take care of. If you have your spouse listed as your beneficiary on any insurance policy or financial accounts, unless your agreement provides otherwise, you will need to make sure that you remove their name as your beneficiary and change it to who you may now wish to name.
If you and your spouse had created a will or any other form of estate planning, you will both need to make changes to those documents. You will each need your own estate plans moving forward. This also applies to a living will or an advance medical directive that sets forth your wishes should you become incapacitated. For example, if your living will states that your spouse has the authority to make life and death decisions and is to decide whether or not extraordinary measures are used to keep you alive, such as life support procedures, you will likely want to make changes to this document. If such changes are to be made, it is important to make these changes as soon as possible after your agreement is signed.
Many married couples share a cell phone plan, but after signing the agreement, many want to have their own individual plan, eliminating charges they may not wish to be responsible for, and insuring privacy of their account. If this is the case, contact your cell phone carrier to institute these changes.
During the mediation, health insurance will be one of the topics that will be addressed. Oftentimes, one spouse will cover the other spouse under his or her health insurance policies. If you are getting a divorce, you will no longer be eligible for coverage under your former spouse’s policies. Therefore, if one of you is losing your coverage as a result of a divorce, it is important to understand your options following the divorce to make sure that you are covered under some type of plan. It is also important to understand the timelines for enrolling for health benefits following the divorce, whether it be under COBRA, the exchange, or through your own employer’s health plan.