Your divorce is not really complete until you have a divorce decree in your possession. Signed, sealed and delivered. Well, not really sealed and maybe not delivered either, but your divorce decree must be signed by a judge and filed with the County Clerk’s Office. When that happens, you are officially and legally divorced.
The decree is the divorce court’s formal order setting forth the terms and conditions that apply in the termination of your marriage. Also known as a final decree, the document details the court’s instructions on disposition of all matters concerning property division, child support, alimony, visitation and custody. The final divorce decree will be permanently stored in the county courthouse records office of the county where the divorce occurred. After the decree is signed, dated and filed at the courthouse you will need a copy to keep in your own records. You can get a copy of your divorce decree from your attorney if you have one, or you can request a copy from the County Clerk’s office.
In addition to the basic information about the divorce like names, filing number, grounds for divorce and the type of divorce, the divorce decree states the court’s final ruling on the settlement of property and financial matters as well as all issues pertaining to children. The terms of the decree outline exactly what the court has specified as to how much child support will be paid, who gets custody of the children and what the visitation schedule will be. Once a decree has been signed by a judge, it goes into immediate effect and applies to all legal forms of divorce. One thing a divorce decree does not provide is protection from contracts and joint agreements entered into prior to the termination of the marriage. Many surprise debt burdens caused by delinquent ex-spouses have been passed on to people who assumed they were protected by their divorce decree.
The property and financial aspects of a divorce decree are usually permanent and cannot be modified. The child custody and support instructions can be modified if they are found to be in the best interest of the child. Informal modifications and agreements between parties do not constitute official changes to the decree and will not be recognized by the court. Most official decree modifications are not presented in court. Once both parties and their attorneys have signed a modification in agreement it can be presented to a judge for approval. If the parties are not in agreement on the modification request, the matter will be decided by the court.
You can obtain a copy of your divorce decree from the Office of Vital Records in the state and county where the divorce occurred. Your request should contain the following information:
- The full names of both husband & wife.
- The date of the divorce.
- The type of divorce it was.
- The place the divorce occurred.
- The reason you need the decree copy.
- The requesting party’s name, address and driver’s license number.
In order to expedite your divorce decree copy request you should:
- Use a typewriter to fill out the request form.
- Provide a self addressed and stamped return envelope.
- Make only one request per form.
- Keep your explanations brief and to the point.
- Make sure your information is complete.