What Is A Divorce Decree?

what is a divorce decree

A marriage begins with the filing of a marriage license. In the sad event that you or your spouse choose to end the marriage, the legal union is dissolved via a divorce decree.

There are typically four significant stages in a couple’s divorce process. The first begins when one or both parties decide to proceed with a divorce. This usually leads to conversations ranging from very heated and tense to business-like and sad. The second and third stages include mediation with a family law facilitator or official court proceedings and filing the finalized divorce papers. 

After six months, if neither party contests the initial filing, the courts stamp the documents filed, and the divorce is finalized. Your receipt of the official divorce decree finalizes the third stage and launches you into the fourth – when you, your former spouse, and any children you have adjusted to the new life ahead

Included In The Divorce Decree

The papers you or your lawyer file to begin the court’s review of the divorce are the same ones you’ll get back with the official court stamp. Every divorce decree is different in some ways because no two couples or families are alike. 

However, the typical divorce decree includes the finalized agreements on how everything should proceed – from the closing of joint bank accounts and paying off certain debts to child visitation and support payments. Here are some of the most typical forms included in the final divorce decree packet.

Summary of dissolution & judgment of dissolution and notice of entry of judgment

The first form is the one you or your spouse fill out to file the request for a divorce. Because California is a no-fault divorce state, you’re guaranteed the divorce will be finalized six months after you file as long as all of the paperwork is 100% correct. 

This is why we always recommend working with a family law mediator – even in a no-conflict divorce. It’s the only way to know everything will be completed and filed without the risk of anything being kicked back by the court for a small error. When that happens, you have to complete and submit the forms all over again, which re-starts the clock.

NOTE: Do not panic if your spouse refuses to sign the paperwork in the 30-day time frame specified by the court. If this happens, you show up for your court date as stated by the court and the divorce, and the court will accept all agreements stated in the paperwork you completed. Your spouse cannot contest anything in the divorce agreement after waiving their right to respond in 30 days.

Spousal support (FL-167

Depending on your marriage’s employment history, income, and other factors, one of you may have to pay spousal support (formerly known as alimony). This is a temporary situation in most cases, barring any prenuptial agreements that state otherwise.

The courts no longer expect one spouse to support the other for any longer than necessary. So, while alimony of the past was often for a lifetime, until remarrying, or for ten years, the courts now expect the person receiving spousal support to do whatever is necessary to obtain gainful employment, at which point those payments stop.

If you have to pay alimony, you can petition the court to change or cease payments at any time if you feel your ex-spouse’s financial situation is healthy enough for them to live without your assistance.

Child custody (visitation and support)

If you have children together, you’ll file forms pertaining to child custody (visitation and relevant support). We highly recommend couples with children use divorce mediation rather than finalizing a DIY or lawyer-facilitated divorce. There are multiple benefits of using divorce and child custody mediation – the largest of which is the reduced tension and drama. 

Children suffer greatly during and after a divorce so the more you can do to make this part as smooth, fair, and amicable as possible, the better it is for your children’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

Name change

For many, a divorce may be a time they wish to change their name back to whatever it was before the marriage. This can be done as part of the divorce proceedings – finalized in the divorce decree – as long as you fill out the legal name change portion of the forms.

Final decisions and instructions regarding property and asset division

Finally, a divorce technically means some type of distribution of properties and assets. This part is fairly straightforward because California is a community property state. Things to think about when discussing “who gets what” include considerations around:

  • Existing prenuptial agreements.
  • Do you own your own business?
  • Properties, assets, or other items of value acquired during the divorce as inheritances (which are separate from community property).
  • Is one person buying out the other’s share of the house to keep it, or is the house being sold to pay off joint debts, splitting the remaining equity?
  • Is it worth it to forgo a portion or all of a spouse’s retirement fund to gain a different asset or account?
  • Other financial considerations that should be addressed now to simplify post-divorce life.

Finally, are there any debts or assets your spouse doesn’t know about? If so, it’s time to come clean, as the court does not favor those who hide assets during legal proceedings. You can wind up facing serious penalties. 

Make Copies Of The Divorce Decree To Finalize Post-Judgment Transactions

Once the divorce is finalized, you and your ex-spouse must complete all of the necessary transactions outlined in the divorce decree within a set amount of time. In many cases, like name changes, property/title transfers, closing/accessing accounts, etc., you must provide a certified copy of the divorce decree. You can request certified copies of a divorce decree from the county clerk’s office in the county where the divorce was finalized.

Make a checklist of the items you’re responsible for and then tick through them as soon as possible to facilitate a clean break and a fresh new start.

Gerard A. Falzone Prioritizes Divorce Mediation To Facilitate Drama-Free Divorces

There is no need for drama, chaos, or unnecessarily long (and expensive) divorce proceedings. Connect with the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone to learn more about how you can get your official divorce decree finalized with a minimum investment and optimum integrity.