Do You Really Need a Divorce Decree?
The answer to the question posed by the headline of this article is yes. Without a doubt, you do need a valid copy of your divorce decree in your possession. A divorce is not complete until a divorce decree has been signed by a judge and filed with the County Clerk’s Office. Once that happens, a divorce becomes official and legal. After the decree is signed, dated and filed at the local courthouse you will need to keep a copy in your own records. You can get a copy of the decree from your attorney if you have one, or you can obtain a copy from the County Clerk’s office.
The decree is the divorce court’s formal order on the terms and conditions of the divorce. The decree indicates the court’s instructions concerning property division, child support, alimony, visitation and custody. The divorce decree is stored in the county courthouse records office of the county where the divorce action was filed.
A divorce decree also contains the court’s ruling on financial matters as well as all issues pertaining to any dependent children that may be involved. The decree will show the court’s instructions on the amount of child support to be paid, who gets custody of the children and the level of visitation rights the other spouse will have. After a decree has been signed, it goes into immediate effect. A divorce decree will not provide protection from joint agreements entered into prior to the divorce though, and contracts signed during the marriage are still valid. A delinquent ex-spouse’s debts can often be a problem after a divorce.
The property and financial terms of a divorce decree are usually permanent and cannot be modified after the fact, but child custody and child support instructions can be modified if the changes are found to be in the best interests of the child. Official divorce decree modifications do not always have to be presented in court. If both parties are in agreement the modification request can be presented directly to a judge for approval. If both parties are not in agreement on a modification request, the court will ultimately decide the matter.