Pennsylvania couples should know that getting the final decree signed by their presiding divorces judge is almost, but not quite, the end of the process. Typically, the court order describes the manner in which marital assets are to be divided, but it is up to the parties to finalize the process. This means couples ready to separate must work together on one last project to get across the divorce finish line.

The final decree is really a set of instructions from the judge. The divorcing couple is charged with carrying out those instructions in a timely fashion. For example, if the order calls for a piece of real estate to be sold, it must be someone’s responsibility to see that the property gets placed on the market. If a retirement account is to be liquidated, someone must provide the necessary paperwork to plan administrators. Having a specific plan in place designating responsibilities can help prevent confusion and delay.

If names get changed at the end of a marriage, a copy of the court order must be provided to the appropriate agencies for new drivers’ licenses, passports and Social Security cards. Estate planning documents should be reviewed and modified in light of changed property holdings and to clarify heirs if the former spouse is to be disinherited. To avoid confusion, former spouses should be replaced as beneficiaries of insurance polices, assuming that is the desire of divorcing individuals. Furthermore, all joint accounts should be closed.

Depending on individual circumstances, there are a variety of actions big and small that must be taken to free divorcing couples from the interwoven aspects of marital finances. This is particularly true for long-term marriages. A qualified family law attorney can help identify an action plan and navigate the process for anyone contemplating marital dissolution.