After the long process of a divorce is complete, you can relax because the entire process is over, right? Well, depending upon the case, not exactly.
Is your case truly over? Despite a final order of divorce from a trial court, your case may actually have a long way to go before it reaches its final conclusion. Either party may file post-trial motions such as a Motion to Reconsider, a Motion for New Trial, a Motion to Set Aside the Judgment, etc. All of these motions may cause the trial court to reconsider its decision, and potentially even change its final judgment. In addition, even if the trial court does not change its opinion, the parties to a divorce in Georgia may have rights to an appeal to either (or eventually both) the Georgia Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Georgia (and in certain rare case to the United States Supreme Court).
Even if your case is finally over and past the period of any motions or appeals, there are potentially several key things you should still be thinking about in relation to your divorce. In particular, there are at least three major areas that typically need attention post-divorce: 1) effectuating the division of retirement accounts; 2) quitclaim deeds to transfer property; and, 3) processing the change of your last name, if applicable. Because the issue effectuating the division of retirement accounts is rather complex, we have decided to discuss it in our article regarding QDRO’s which you can see from this link.
Depending upon future changes in circumstances, it may also be appropriate to consider a modification of Alimony, Child Support, or even Custody. In addition, in the event one of the parties to the decree does not follow the final order of the court in regards to your divorce, it may also be necessary to consider using the contempt powers of the court to effectuate the actual terms of the final decree. In respect to name changes and quitclaim deeds, the following should provide a brief summary of some of the things to keep in mind.
Changing Your Name
In a divorce action, a party may seek the restoration of his or her prior last name or maiden name. A party may accomplish this by requesting the restoration of the prior name in the petition or answer. If a divorce is granted, the court will grant a party’s request for name restoration by ordering in the final judgment and decree for divorce that the party’s prior name be restored and specifying said name. O.C.G.A. §§ 19-5-12 and 19-5-16. For example, if a wife chose to take on her husband’s last name of Smith during the marriage, her prior last name of Jones may be restored via a decree in the court’s order that will resemble the following:
“The court restores to Petitioner her prior or maiden name, to wit: Jones.”
A parent may seek to change a child’s last name consequent to a divorce action as well. However, a court has broad discretion regarding the change of a child’s last name and will not change a child’s last name based solely upon the request of a parent. See Johnson v. Coggins, 124 Ga.App. 603 (1971) and Palmer v. Pinkston, 228 Ga.App. 514 (1997). The court will only do so if the change would serve the best interests, welfare and happiness of the child or children involved. Id.
Once your name change has been granted in the Final Judgment and Decree, you may take a certified, file-stamped copy to the Social Security and administration and other agencies, as appropriate, to legally change your name.
Real estate titled in both parties’ names but awarded to one party during the process of the divorce will need to be retitled appropriately. Georgia allows the transfer of property pursuant to a divorce settlement to be accomplished tax-free via a Quitclaim Deed. The Quitclaim Deed is a legal instrument that is signed by the spouse relinquishing his/her right to the property and filed with the land records of the county where the property is located by the spouse gaining the property. This step is an important one that must not be overlooked once the divorce has been finalized.
In a divorce, oftentimes one of the most significant marital assets to be divided is a party’s retirement savings or pension. In order to divide or transfer this interest in a divorce, irrespective of the size of the account or interest, you may be required to obtain a separate order from the Judge compelling the division and transfer from one spouse to another…(continue reading).