The Judge Signed Your Divorce Decree—Now What?

Updated 05/15/19
PhotoStock-Israel/Getty Images

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A final decree of divorce is the court’s formal order granting a termination of a marriage. If the case goes to trial and the judge issues a judgment, the judgment is confirmed when the decree is signed and dated by the judge and court clerk.

Understanding Your Divorce Decree

You will be sent a copy, via mail, of your final decree of divorce after it has been signed and entered into the court records. 

Most divorce decrees will cover the following five issues:

Your divorce will not become "final" until you have signed your divorce agreement and a judge has stamped it with his seal of approval. Once that happens the court will mail you out a copy of your final decree of divorce.

Before Signing Your Final Divorce Decree

Read thoroughly the final agreement before allowing your divorce attorney to send it to the judge to sign. Many have regretted not checking for grammatical and syntactical mistakes before signing. What specifically should you be looking for?

Any wording related to how pension funds are divided. Any wording that has anything to do with a Qualified Domestic Relationships Order. Both of these aspects of your divorce will require specific wording since how it is processed with depends on how a third party interprets the language in the divorce decree. 

Another thing to be cautious of is the wording related to child visitation or custody decisions. Lawyers will use the term "reasonable" when addressing visitation and custody, especially when it comes to issues like parents deciding what is in their child's best interest. You run into a problem when you are dealing with a parent that is anything but "reasonable." For example, it is not reasonable behavior if one parent is attempting to alienate the child(ren) from the other parent. 

It is imperative that your final decree is worded in a way that protects your legal interest and will hold up if, for whatever reason, you need to modify or appeal the document at a later date. 

How to Get Your Divorce Decree

A final decree of divorce is archived in the vital records office of your courthouse, in the county in which you obtain your divorce. In most situations, the court clerk or your attorney will mail you a copy of your final decree. If this doesn’t happen or you need an extra copy you should write to or go to the court clerk’s office and request a copy.

When You Receive Your Divorce Decree

Read the documents closely to make sure no mistakes were made, no language was changed and you are satisfied with the wording. If you find the language confusing, contact your attorney for an explanation. Read the decree before it is sent to the courts for signing by the judge AND, read it again after it is signed and entered into the court records. 

If You Find a Mistakes on Your Final Divorce Decree

Once you've signed your decree, changing it can be tricky. The only way to change it may be via the appeals process. If, however, you feel that you signed the decree under duress or felt threatened if you didn't sign, your attorney may be able to courts the courts for a new hearing based on your duress. 

Related Stories