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When two people make the decision to separate, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. Issues such as child support, child custody, spousal support and the equalization of property.

The outcome of these discussions will represent a new reality going forward.

But what about what you might need to do once your divorce has been granted?

There are a number of items/documents that you will want to update as quickly as possible. Although not an exhaustive list, the items below represent the most common.

Post Divorce – What to Update:

  1. Name Change – If, at the time of your marriage, you opted to legally change your name, you may be thinking about changing it back. Ontario law allows a spouse to elect to resume their former surname upon divorce. The surname that you can elect to resume is the surname you held immediately before marriage. This is a simple process but must be done within 90 days of the divorce. If more time has elapsed, you will have to apply for a formal adult name change. More information and the necessary forms can be obtained through the Registrar General.

♦ You should note, however, that changing your child/ren(s) last name is not the same thing as changing your last name in Ontario. In order to legally alter your child/ren(s) last name in Ontario, the child/ren would have had to reside in Ontario for at least one year or if they have been living in Ontario since birth. In addition, you would need to have been granted legal custody or be the legal guardian of the child/ren. You cannot change the last name of your child/ren if there is an existing court order or a clause in your separation agreement that prevents you from doing so. Learn more about changing your child’s name.

Once you have successfully changed your name, you’ll need to update it on a number of records. Most often people start by updating the information on their Ontario driver’s license and health card. These may require additional information and certificates, so please review the information you will need to make these changes.

  1. Will – It is likely that you and your now former spouse drafted a Will to address issues regarding your estate once you and/or your spouse were to die. It’s likely you named each other as beneficiaries to your property and possessions and/or named the other as executor over your estate. It is highly likely, then, that you will need to amend your Will.

♦ If you should happen to die and your marital status is just “separated” and if you had named your soon-to-be-ex as beneficiary, then the likelihood is that the Will stands as a valid legal document and your soon-to-be-ex may inherit your properties and assets as per the Will. However, if you are legally divorced at the time of your death, then any portion of your Will that deals with your ex will be invalidated. The remainder of your Will will stay intact.

♦ It is crucial for separated spouses that do not have Wills at separation, have one prepared. If you are separated with no Will, your spouse is entitled to all his rights under the Succession Law Reform Act which automatically entitles the spouse to a preferential share of the estate (i.e. the first $200,000 of the estate is paid to the spouse).

  1. Insurance Policies – If you wish to make any changes to your existing insurance policy(ies), they can only be made if you are the lone insured named on the policy. If you and your ex-spouse are listed on the policy, then you will need the others’ consent to make changes.

♦ Homeowners – Separation and divorce typically means that one or both spouses will be obtaining new residences. As a result, you will need to create a new homeowner’s insurance policy in your name alone. Even if one of you opts to stay in the matrimonial home, the existing policy will still need to be amended to reflect your single status/new living arrangement.

♦ Automobile – As you may know, automobile insurance policy premiums are significantly influenced by your home address. The area in which you choose to live and the distances you may be required to commute to and from home and work, are all taken into account by the insurance provider when they create your policy. Sounds fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Where it might get a bit more complex, is if you happen to have a child/ren who drive. If so, you will need to list them on your own and/or your ex-spouses’ auto insurance policy as well. And if your child/ren have their own car, it would be advisable to insure the child/ren on the policy of the parent with whom he or she most frequently resides.

♦ Life – In some cases where child/ren and/or spousal support are addressed in your separation agreement, the other spouse may have insisted that the document include a clause about obtaining or maintaining a life insurance policy, and listing the beneficiary as your ex-spouse. Seems a bit counter-intuitive, but there may be a very good reason. After your death, your ex-spouse may still require the support payments you had been making while living, to keep up with the day-to-day necessities for your child/ren.

If you don’t have any support obligations, you are free to change your policy and name a new beneficiary, if you so choose. Although your inclination may be to name your child/ren as beneficiaries, bear in mind that minors cannot receive life insurance benefits directly. If you die, the inheritance would need to be managed by either a trustee or your insurance company until the child/ren reach the age of majority, which in Ontario, is 18 years of age.

  1. Group Benefits Easily and often overlooked (particularly if claims are few and far between), are amendments to your employee benefit plan(s). If you and/or your ex-spouse have group benefits, it is likely that you both had each other on your health and dental plans as well. If you need to update your plan and your coverage, you will need to notify either the plan administrator in your office and/or the insurance company directly. If your child/ren are involved and you and your ex-spouse have existing plans, it would now be wise to maintain coverage for them on the parents’ plan that is most comprehensive.

Consider the act of updating these documents as yet another step in getting your life back on track after a divorce. It may take a bit of time, but you will get there eventually.

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