Is Your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage Complete?
Airline pilots have checklists to make sure all that is needed for flight is either available or completed. For instance, pilots check that the landing gear is down and whether or not they have enough gas.*
The same should be true in regards to the finalization of your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage and Marital Settlement Agreement. Hence, if you are going through a divorce, it is vital to check that your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is complete.
Checklist for your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage
- Check that your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage contains language that your marriage is dissolved, that the bands of matrimony are dissolved, or that the divorce is granted. I have seen judgments which left out the essential language actually granting the divorce.
- Check to see if the Judgment states that the wife is allowed to resume her maiden name.
- Read your proposed Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Agreement (if applicable), and your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. Then read it again and make note of any questions to ask your lawyer. Then, create a third redo to make sure you understand each and every provision. Often times clients are surprised by the language in their own judgment because they are so sick and tired of the case that they never actually bother to read it in its entirety. Then, years later, a question or dispute with their ex-spouse pops up and they read the Judgment/Marital Settlement Agreement for the first time and have one of those "OMG" moments. Hence, read the Judgment.
- Make sure you receive a certified copy of the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage from your attorney. If you do not receive one, the best practice is to go to the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county in which you were divorced and obtain a certified copy. Since your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage becomes the law of your case, it is vital to have it and to keep a certified copy in the event questions arise later on.
- Make sure that anything that is supposed to be done in your Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is done!
- If you are receiving real estate or transferring real estate, make sure there is a recorded deed reflecting the change of ownership.
- If you are dividing a pension or retirement account, it is absolutely crucial that you do so by a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) if the account is governed by ERISA, or by a Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations order if it comes under the Illinois Pension Code chapter 40, 40 ILCS 5/7.
- If an ex-spouse participates in a pension or retirement account, and then dies before the final dividing divorce paperwork is completed, the receiving dependent may never receive his or her benefit share as ordered under a court judgment. To properly receive your benefits, ensure that your ex-spouse's domestic relations order or QDRO is filed with the court.
- Make sure that that the transfer of any accounts, such as stocks, bonds, securities, money market funds, mutual funds, or life insurance policies are ordered to be divided and are actually divided. If you wait to divide them in the distant future, you may discover they have increased or decreased in value. It becomes immensely difficult to determine how they should have been divided in the first place, as well as who will receive the increase or decrease.
Finally, check that transfers have been made for all of the following:
- Automobile titles;
- Titles of trucks or other vehicles such as boats, RVs trailers, or any other titled personal property;
- Land titles; and
- Transfers of custodial accounts such as account under the Uniform Transactions to Minors Act.
If you are going through a divorce and seek legal counsel regarding your Judgement for Dissolution of Marriage, please contact one of our experienced DuPage County divorce lawyers. We will walk you through the process and advocate on your behalf, both in and out of the courtroom.
*In the famous case of the Manitoba Glider, the airline pilot ran out of gas during the flight, something that can be avoided if the checklist is used.