You Need a Divorce Decree to Get Remarried

Aug 8, 2012 by

A divorce decree is a formal legal document issued by the divorce court that terminates a marriage.

The decree is proof that a divorce has been finalized. It contains the terms and conditions of the divorce, such as the court’s instructions on how property is to be divided, child custody and support, alimony, etc., and is signed by the judge that presided over the case. It is preferable for both of the divorcing spouses also to sign the document, but it is the judge’s signature that makes the decree effective.

The terms of a divorce are considered final once the decree has been signed by the judge, so if a party desires modifications to the agreement later, such as a change in child visitation, the terms must be approved by the court to be enforceable. Otherwise, any deviation from the terms in the original document may be considered a violation of the divorce decree.

Divorce decrees are the most important document to have when a party to a divorce needs to show proof that he or she is, in fact, legally divorced. There are several reasons why a spouse might need documentation that a divorce has been finalized, including the desire to remarry. A person may not legally marry again unless he or she can show proof that any previous marriages are legally terminated.

An important note about what a decree does not do is relieve the divorcing spouses of their joint contracts, such as financial debts, even if the decree indicates that only one of the parties is responsible for the debt. If spouses take on a financial obligation together, they are still both responsible for the debt even after they are divorced.

Divorce laws are determined at the state level, and divorce courts are managed at the county level. A final divorce decree, then, is kept on file in the vital records office (also called the vital statistics office in some counties) of the courthouse in the county in which the divorce was granted. Normally, parties to a divorce will receive a copy of the final decree from the county clerk or their attorney, but if additional copies are needed, they can be obtained from the county clerk’s office, generally for a small fee.


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