What you should know about your divorce decree
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What you should know about your divorce decree

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Divorce |

Your marriage is not over until a formal order issued by the court. You should know what to expect in the decree that courts issue as the final document in your divorce.


Spouses sign a divorce decree which must also be approved by a judge. Issues include settlement of spousal support, property and debt division, child custody and visitation and child support. Divorce decrees may also address other issues such as name-change authorization, assigning the spouse for paying taxes and attorney’s fees.

Spousal support and maintenance, also known as alimony, is the amount of money a spouse pays to the other spouse. Judges will consider the amount of money each spouse earned during the marriage, the roles they played, marital standard of living, and their age and health.

Judges decide property division issues by identifying whether property is marital or non-marital property and assign value to joint asserts. Judges will divide assets acquired during marriage in a manner that is fair, but which is not necessarily an equal division.

Debt division is like dividing property. Before divorce, spouses may pay off their debts or settle this issue during their negotiations. If a court decides this issue, it will determine which spouse incurred the debt and who benefited the most.

Before signing

You must assure that your decree can be effective if it ever needs to be enforced, modified, or appealed. It should be accurate and contain the correct language and contingencies to protect your legal interest.

Important items for review include division of pension funds or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Retirement plans must have specific language, including language concerning IRS requirements, because third parties interpret benefits.

Child custody and visitation terms are also important. The term liberal and reasonable is often used to address this issue and what is in the child’s best interest.

Carefully read and reread the final decree before your attorney submits it for the judge’s approval. Assure that the wording is appropriate, there no errors and it contains no vague language. Confirm that there are no missing provisions, agreements, or other information that you expected. Monetary amounts need special review.


Modifying a final decree is difficult. Typically, it can be changed only though an appeal which can be lengthy and require a lot of proof. You can, however, petition the court for a new hearing if you believe you signed it under duress.


Obtain a copy of the final decree and keep it with your records. Reread it after it is entered into court records.

Attorneys can help you negotiate a fair and reasonable decree. They can also pursue your rights in court.