When you file for divorce, your ultimate goal is to receive your final decree of divorce. This document officially dissolves your marriage and spells out the terms of the divorce. Like a marriage license proves you were married, a divorce decree establishes that you are legally divorced. In the context of California family law, a “divorce decree” is referring to the family law court's ruling and judgment order that makes marriage termination official.
A divorce decree is a court document that is a final judgment from a family law court. It contains crucial information about your divorce, such as spousal support, child support, child custody, child visitation, property division, and other information.
It should be noted that only a court can issue a divorce decree and it will typically be received at the end of your case. In a situation where your case went to trial, your divorce decree will contain the terms of the judge's decision and it's considered a judgment that both spouses have to follow. If your case was settled without a trial, the divorce decree will include all the terms of the settlement.
Most divorce decrees contain information on issues that were agreed-upon, including health insurance, life insurance, and how assets and debts will be divided.
The divorce process is not complete until the court issues a divorce decree. This means the couple's status as married or divorced won't finalized until the divorce decree is completed.
An incomplete divorce proceeding could have an impact on various parts of your life, such possession of property, filing taxes, and other legal rights. For some couples who can easily negotiate the terms of their divorce or who do not have many assets or children, their decree is issued much quicker than other couples. When you first speak with your Los Angeles family law attorney, they can give you an idea as to how long it may take to get your final divorce decree.
California Divorce Decree
Simply put, a final decree of divorce is a formal order from the court that grants the termination of the marriage. If your divorce is contested and ends up at a trial, the judge will issue a judgment. The judgment is confirmed when the decree is signed and dated by the family court judge and the clerk of court.
Generally, a final decree of divorce addresses the following terms of the divorce:
- Alimony or Spousal Support
If one spouse is ordered to pay money to the other to help support them. Who pays what to whom will depend on who made more money during the marriage and each spouse's role. Other factors the judge may consider when determining alimony are the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, your health, your age, and other extenuating factors.
- Division of Property
If you and your soon to be former spouse cannot agree on who gets what in the divorce, a judge will determine how it is split up in accordance with state laws. California is a community property state that views all income and assets obtained during the marriage to belong equally to both spouses.
- Division of Debt
If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on the division of your debt, the court will intervene. You have the option to pay everything off before filing for divorce or negotiating who is responsible for what while your divorce is pending. If the court must decide, they will consider which spouse incurred the debt and who benefited most from it.
- Child Custody and Visitation
If you have children together, your divorce decree will detail who has legal and physical custody of the children and the terms of any visitation allowed. If you are both able to reach fair agreements about custody, the judge will be unlikely to intervene. Otherwise, the judge will determine custody and visitation. Either way, it will be listed on your divorce decree.
- Child Support
If either spouse is required to pay child support, it will also be detailed on this document.
- Other Contingencies
Depending on your specific circumstances, the divorce decree may contain other contingencies such as an authorization for a name change or who is ordered to pay taxes or attorney fees.
Can a Final Divorce Decree Be Modified?
Under some circumstances, parts of the divorce decree may be modified. For instance, custody arrangements or child support orders can be altered by the court if there are specific changes for the children or parents, such as the loss of a job or a medical emergency.
Parents can make new agreements regarding child custody, support, and visitation with their children. It is possible to do this on your own, but you should consult with a family law lawyer for help with the process. You will need to file your agreement with the court. Our divorce attorneys can explain exactly how you need to file your new agreement.
You will need the Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order (Form FL-350) in order to change your child support agreement. You will need the Stipulation and Order for Custody or Visitation of Children (Form FL-355) in order to change your child custody agreement.
However, other portions, such as the division of assets and debts, cannot be modified. If you need to have the terms of your divorce modified, your Los Angeles family law lawyer can assist you in taking the necessary steps.
Getting Copies of Your Divorce Decree
Each spouse may need a copy of the divorce decree for various reasons to prove that the marriage has come to an end. Each one has the right to receive a certified official copy of the order from the California county superior court, where the decree was issued. In Los Angeles, see divorce judgment documents overview.
To obtain such a copy, you will need to visit the court where it was issued. In general, you will be asked to fill out a form and provide a copy of your state identification. Knowing the names of both parties to the divorce, the date the divorce was filed, and the date the decree was issued will help them locate your decree. You will likely need to pay a fee for your copy.
How a Family Law Attorney in Los Angeles Can Help
In California, a divorce decree is known as a “Judgment.” Certified copies of divorce decrees must be obtained from the specific county superior court where the divorce papers were filed. Divorce decrees are classified as confidential documents in California and can be ordered online, but not downloaded. Of course, the state imposes a fee for obtaining a copy of a divorce decree.
Issues pertaining to your divorce are often complex and multi-faceted. Whatever issues are involved in your divorce case, we have resources to help. Our divorce and family law attorneys can provide you with legal representation for all types of divorces.
Our attorneys and staff are trained to help you focus on what matters most to you in your case. Whether it be reducing conflict or ensuring the well-being of your children, we are here for you.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles family law and divorce attorneys located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case consultation at (818) 528-3471.