My divorce hit me with all the warning of a flash flood. I had been married, happily it seemed to me, for years. And suddenly my then wife was saying things like “I don’t love you anymore” and “this’ll be better for everyone.” I had been thrust full throttle into the hell that is modern divorce made even worse by the fact that my ex and I had children to consider.
Unfortunately I was young, shell shocked, and my knowledge of divorce law was non-existent. This led to me stumbling through the divorce process. Some of the mistakes I made where minor, other more serious. When the divorce was finally settled, I was eager to begin my new life. Healing and pursing new love was on the forefront of my mind. I never even considered that I might have post-divorce responsibilities.
Read Your Divorce Decree.
When I finally received the divorce decree, I checked that I was divorced and then stuffed it into the back of my filing cabinet. As if hiding it from my site would erase the court battles, the angry custody arguments, and the massive amounts of money that I lost from my mind.
There are two reasons that was a horrendously bad idea:
- Divorce decrees include orders that you must fulfill from the judge. When I failed to read through the divorce decree, I was never made aware of the fact that the judge ordered me to find suitable lodging for children within the next month.
- Court clerks and judges are not infallible. Mistakes are made. The last thing you need is for a grammatical mistake to drastically alter the court’s ruling. Double check every word on the document. If anything looks hinky, appeal to the judge.
See to Obligations
Ensure that your obligations—divorce decrees—are upheld quickly. Write down the obligations you must complete, so you don’t miss any. The failure to complete all of your obligations can result in repercussions. In my case, the failure to obtain lodging could have given my ex-wife grounds to appeal the court for full-custody. If you cannot fulfill your obligations in the time given, you should consult your divorce lawyer.
Updating Legal Documents
Once your divorce has been granted, you should update your legal documents to reflect your new single status. Your legal name, will, power of attorney, insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and tax withholdings might all need to be updated.
The failure to update these could have far reaching emotional, physical, monetary, and legal repercussions. Failure to update your:
- power of attorney could leave new significant others from being able to make medical decisions for you.
- tax withholding could lead to inadvertent fraud. The last thing you need is to be in hot water with the IRS, as you begin to pursue new relationships.
Upholding Custody Agreement
Thankfully I never experienced any custody problems. My ex and I worked out a shared custody agreement despite my own bitterness. Once the divorce had been finalized, I relaxed. We shared custody, and I was sure the arrangement would continue. If I had known the reality of custody agreements I would have been more wary.
As a divorced parent you should carefully uphold your part of the court’s ruling. As a divorced parent, you must remember two things. Court ordered custody arrangements: must be upheld by both parties and are not set in stone. You should:
- Show up for or allow every scheduled visit unless there is an emergency.
- Pick off or drop of the child on time.
- Engage in activities that will not endanger the child—even if it seems harmless.
- Refrain from berating the other parent in front of the child. It creates a hostile environment that could affect their mental and emotional well-being.
Remember, as a parent your parental rights can be altered or removed based on your behavior after the divorce. If you know your spouse is bitter—upholding your end of the custody agreement is even more important.
Appeal is an Option
My final piece of advice. Remember that you can appeal to the judge if the current arrangement is not working. As the years pass, you and your exes lives will change. Your children will grow. You will make new love connections. When you pursue a new relationship, you must be willing to accept change. The aftermath of divorce requires the same ability.