What is a Final Divorce Decree?

If you are in the throes of a divorce, you may be wondering: when will it all be over? No two divorces are the same. There are different assets and debts involved in each one. In many cases, there are children involved, which can complicate matters.

If your marriage has been anything but amicable and it has dragged on for many months and cost tens of thousands of dollars, then you may be at a point of frustration. The good news is that when your lawyer mentions a divorce decree and starts working on it, it means there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your marriage will be officially terminated soon.

A divorce decree is a formal order by the court showing that you have been officially divorced. When the decree is signed and dated by both the judge and the court clerk, the divorce process is over. A divorce decree may also be called a divorce judgment.

What is in a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree encompasses all the aspects of a divorce. It contains detailed information about the responsibilities of each party in the divorce. This includes child custody, child support, visitation schedules, alimony, asset division and division of debt. If there were other issues of concern, those would be addressed in the decree, as well. The decree will include everything that has been agreed upon by the parties or decided by a judge. This may include elements such as life insurance, health insurance, and whether or not any parties will revert to their former last names.

Divorce decrees are given a case number and signed by the judge who presided over the divorce. Only the involved parties and their lawyers will have access to this document. Although a divorce decree is final, it is possible for one or both parties to access it and request to make changes to it.

Before You Sign

You will need to sign the divorce decree. While you may be eager to sign it and move on, do not be so quick. You will need to make sure it is accurate. While it should have no grammatical errors, it also should not contain vague language. Specific legal language is needed if a pension or a retirement plan such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is involved. If you have children, make sure there is information about child custody and visitation schedules. If you and your ex-spouse agreed on other issues, such as asset division or child custody, make sure that information is included, as well.

Never assume that everything contained in the divorce decree is correct. Mistakes happen. If it is missing information that you expected to be there or you are confused about the wording, ask your lawyer. Once you sign the decree, it is difficult to make changes. You will need an appeal, which can be a lengthy process. Therefore, be sure to double-check it with your lawyer before signing.

Once everyone has signed and the document has been finalized, it will be entered into court records. You will receive a copy of your final divorce decree in the mail. If you do not, you can always request a copy from the court clerk.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

You may have also heard the term “divorce certificate,” but keep in mind that it is not the same thing as a divorce decree. A divorce decree can only be issued by the court, while a divorce certificate is given out at your local health department or Bureau of Vital Statistics — where you would get a birth certificate.

A divorce certificate is a simple document that shows you are divorced. It also shows the date and location of the divorce, as well as the names of the parties involved. It does not include any details about the divorce, unlike a divorce decree.

So, why would you need a divorce certificate? It is easier to get than a divorce decree and it can be used for a variety of purposes, mainly proof of a divorce. You can use it to get a name change, passport, or travel visa. You can also use it to show you are single at a time you receive an inheritance.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Record

A divorce record is different from a divorce decree. It actually contains even more information, as it serves as the case file for a divorce. A divorce record contains information such as evidence, testimonies, transcripts of court proceedings, judgments, motions, protective orders, financial settlements and child custody arrangements. A divorce record also has the names and addresses of the parties involved, as well as any witnesses. Keep in mind that divorce records are generally kept public, so anyone can search for them and see all the relevant information involved. Divorce records can be accessed online or in person, but since they contain sensitive information, such as personal data about minors, finances and crimes, they are often harder to obtain and may require a paid subscription.

Seek Legal Help

If you are ending your marriage, a divorce decree is very important, as it is the final document showing the termination of your marriage. It shows that your divorce is indeed final, which is an exciting time for many people.

Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can answer your questions about the divorce process. We will work hard to resolve your issues and work toward a final divorce decree. Schedule a consultation today by filling out the online form or calling (954) 346-6464.