you have a divorce decree signed by the judge, now what?

August 4, 2021

What To Do After Divorce Is Final

It’s been a long, difficult process but you finally have the divorce decree signed by the judge in your hands. You may feel relieved and at peace or you may feel sad that your marriage is over. No matter your feelings, the final decree may not be the end of the work that needs to be done to really finalize your divorce case. Here’s a closer look at what to do after your divorce is final.

Real Estate Transfer

The decree may require one spouse to transfer their interest in real property to the other. This is done after the decree is signed through a Quit Claim Deed. This is a document that an attorney will draft and the spouse giving up the real estate will sign. It is then filed with the Register of Deeds office to record a transfer of ownership in property. 

Refinancing of Mortgages

The decree may also require one spouse to refinance their mortgage to remove the other spouse from the mortgage. This process is done through a mortgage lender and requires both spouses to sign off on the removal of a spouse.  

Retirement Accounts

If the decree requires you to split retirement (pension, 401(k) or 403(b)) accounts, a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is needed. This document is usually drafted by the attorney whose client will receive the funds from their ex-spouse. The QDRO then is reviewed and signed by the judge. The financial institution holding the account then receives the QDRO. If approved, the money is moved from the existing account to a newly created account for the receiving spouse.   

If the decree requires you to split IRA accounts, no QDRO is needed. Instead, the IRA is divided by a process called Transfer Incident to Divorce. This usually involves the spouse with the IRA to complete forms with the financial institution holding the money to transfer the money to the other spouse. 

Maiden Name

Your decree may also give the wife her maiden name back. From here, a certified copy of the decree is needed to change her name at the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles. 


No matter what final tasks are required in your decree, making sure you know what to expect and what your obligations are after the judge signs is most important. Having a lawyer who will continue to assist you with these tasks makes the whole process smoother and less stressful.


This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.

If you are seeking legal guidance or representation, contact Hightower Reff Law today.

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