Pilots use them. Surgeons use them. Lawyers use them. Professionals all around the world use checklists to make sure that complex tasks get completed properly and that nothing gets missed. Of all the tools you use in your divorce, a divorce checklist can be the one that makes the biggest difference.
The Value of Checklists
As surgeon Atul Gawande argues in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, a simple checklist can make huge improvements in a number of different fields. The truth is, checklists work for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They can help with everything from buying groceries to managing your kids’ sports schedules.
But checklists are the most valuable for people who have to perform complex tasks without screwing up, or who are under stress.
Few things in life are more stressful or complicated than divorce.
While you’re trying to re-arrange your life, get a grip on your finances, navigate the legal system, help your children adjust to a new reality, and ride the emotional roller-coaster of divorce, important things can fall through the cracks. That’s why having a good divorce checklist is so important.
Here are 10 items you can add to your divorce checklist to make sure you don’t make these divorce mistakes.
10 Common Mistakes a Divorce Checklist can help you avoid:
1. Having to Be Responsible for Debts You Forgot About (or Didn’t Know Existed).
There is nothing worse than finding out months (or years) after your divorce is over that you have a credit card bill in your name that was never dealt with in your divorce.
Divorce Checklist Item: Pull your credit report. (Actually, it’s a good idea to pull your credit report both at the beginning and at the end of your divorce.)
2. Having Your Spouse Read Your Personal Mail.
While your spouse has a right to open mail directed jointly to the two of you, as you separate you are going to start getting mail (for example, letters from your attorney) that you won’t want your spouse to read.
Divorce Checklist Item: Get a P.O. Box and have your mail re-directed as soon as you start your divorce.
3. Having Your Spouse Cyber-Spy on You.
In the flurry of changing everything in your life when you divorce, it is easy to forget that your spouse probably knows (or can easily guess out) the passwords to all of your email, social media and other online accounts.
Divorce Checklist Item: Create a brand new email account and change your passwords on all of your individual email, social media, and online accounts.
4. Not Gathering All of the Financial Information You Need While You Are Able to Get it Easily.
Before your divorce, you can easily grab your financial information from the file cabinet in your family room. Once you start talking about divorce, though, the financial documents you need often mysteriously disappear.
Divorce Checklist Item: Get a good divorce document checklist. Make copies of all of the documents on it before your divorce starts.
5. Not Understanding How Your Parenting Time Schedule Is Really Going to Work.
It is easy to make scheduling mistakes, or miss handling important holidays, when you are trying to create a parenting schedule in your head.
Divorce Checklist Item: Get a yearly calendar and mark out your first year’s parenting schedule on the calendar itself.
6. Not Dealing with Critical Parenting Issues Before Your Divorce.
There is more to a parenting plan than a time schedule. You have to think about things like “the right of first refusal” for babysitting issues, and rules surrounding getting access to your kids information and lots more.
Divorce Checklist Item: Get a parenting issues checklist so you remember to cover what is important to you.
7. Forgetting to actually transfer retirement funds.
It’s great if your divorce judgment says your ex has to transfer money from his/her retirement account to you, but the divorce judgment alone won’t make that happen. You are going to need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to actually get the money transferred.
Divorce Checklist Item: Make sure that all of the money that is supposed to be transferred to you actually gets transferred.
8. Not Making a Will or Not Changing the Beneficiaries on Insurance Policies after Your Divorce.
You have just spent a lot of time and money to divide up your assets with your spouse. The last thing you probably want is your spouse to inherit everything back years after your divorce. Yet that is exactly what could happen if you forget to change your life insurance beneficiary or make a new will.
Divorce Checklist Item: Make a new Will and change all of your beneficiary designations after your divorce.
9. Not Taking Advantage of Health Insurance Benefits While You Can.
If you are insured under your spouse’s health insurance policy try to take care of any health issues you have before you finalize your divorce. That’s especially true if your post-divorce health insurance isn’t as good as what you have while you’re married.
Divorce Checklist Item: 1) Deal with medical issues before you are divorced; and 2) Don’t forget to explore your own health insurance options before you get divorced.
10. Not Securing Irreplaceable Personal Items.
In the heat of a divorce, family photos, jewelry, and heirloom items often either disappear, or become the subject of huge battles. Having to smuggle your personal items out of the house because you don’t want to deal with your ex feels sleazy. Confronting your ex means causing a scene. But if you wait months (or years) to get your stuff, there may be nothing left to get. (NOTE: I only said to secure your own personal items. Please do NOT take your ex’s stuff. That is sleazy!)
Divorce Checklist Item: Put your irreplaceable items in a safe place (outside of your home!) before you start your divorce. Also, make sure to get your personal items from your ex as soon after your divorce as possible.
Having a good divorce checklist can keep you from making these, and other, painful and costly mistakes. To get a copy of my Pre and Post Divorce Checklists, which contain the items listed above, and more, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW.