california divorce decrees

What Is In A Divorce Decree?

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There are many different kinds of decrees. There are presidential decrees and religious decrees that generally have to do with disciplinary acts or clarification of doctrine. There are the decrees that parents issue in regards to household rules and decrees issued by the human resources department of the company you work for. But what’s a divorce decree?

What is a Divorce Decree?

Really, the word decree refers to any sort of proclamation backed up with authority or law but in the world of family law. A divorce decree simply refers to the court’s final ruling and judgment order that makes the termination of a marriage official.

Each divorce decree looks different, but in general, the purpose is to summarize the rights and duties of each party in connection with the divorce.

The divorce process doesn’t end until the court issues a divorce decree.

In other words, the party’s status as married or divorced will not be finalized until this step is completed. Incomplete divorce proceedings may have effects on different areas of life, such as debt, taxes, property possession, employment benefits, and other legal rights.

Related Reading: What Are The Different Types Of Divorce In California?

What’s In A Divorce Decree?

A few of the issues and topics typically addressed in a divorce decree include:

  • Alimony or spousal support.
  • The financial obligations of each party such as the assignment and/or division of debt responsibility.
  • Custody of minor children.
  • Child support.
  • Visitation rights.
  • Division of property.
  • Basic facts of the divorce.
  • The court case number.

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Divorce Decree Vs. Certificate Vs. Record

A divorce ecree should not be confused with a divorce certificat. The latter serves as basic legal proof that a couple is no longer married. It doesn’t, however, contain the more granular details of the split.

You use a divorce certificate for various legal purposes. A common example is changing your legal name with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on a driver’s license.

Laws vary from state to state as to who is allowed to receive a copy of a divorce certificate. But when it comes to the actual divorce decree, in most cases only one of the spouses or their attorney may request a copy of the document.

Access to the actual decree is important for checking the specific terms of the divorce or for filing an action in court regarding the decree such as modification of the original spousal support amount.

A divorce record is the case file from the legal proceedings. This contains all of the papers and forms filed during the divorce.

This includes:

    • Sworn statements from each spouse.
    • Financial documentation used to determine the division of property.
    • Support payments.
    • A copy of the actual divorce decree.

The court that granted the divorce keeps the divorce records. Similar to the divorce decree, this is only available to one of the former spouses or their legal counsel.

Reasons for needing the divorce record include mounting a challenge to agreements or decisions determined in the original divorce or for record-keeping.

Related Reading: Are Divorce Records Public?

Is a Divorce Decree Enforceable?

A divorce decree legally binds both parties to keep the terms of the divorce. The spouses cannot modify the terms of the divorce stated in the decree individually, collaboratively, or through their lawyers.

The court approved each term and possesses the authority to enforce each term. If your ex violates the terms of the divorce decree, you can return to court to bring the issue before the judge.

Judges impose penalties for violations, which include holding the violating spouse in civil contempt of court.

Judges also order modifications due to violations. For instance, if you ex continuously violates the terms regarding parenting time, a judge can modify parenting time based on the best interests of the child.

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Do Decrees Affect Third Party Loans?

It’s important to bear in mind divorce decree do not nullify third-party financial commitments you have with creditors and other companies.

You have signed contracts with these organizations obligating yourself to the terms of the loans and are financially responsible and liable for their fulfillment and repayment regardless of the decree.

They signify an agreement between the court, your former spouse, and you. No one else.

It details who has agreed to take on responsibility for the repayment of the debt and can be legally enforced by the court issuing the decree.

However, if your ex neglects or refuses to obey the terms of the decree, your credit score can still be impacted and you are still liable for repayment. Say the court orders them to take on a joint car loan. If they miss payments, it can come back on you.

Related Reading: 7 Simple Steps to Divorce

How You’re Affected If Your Ex is Delinquent

You can attempt to revise the contract with the lender but the decision to do so is entirely at their discretion. They may be willing to remove you from responsibility for the debt but if the payment is delinquent then the lender is extremely unlikely to do so. This most commonly means refinancing loans in one name or the other.

Your best recourse to protect your credit score may be to repay the debt in full. Then petition the court to compel your exto compensate you for the amount you spent covering their court-determined commitment.

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Who Has Access To My Decree?

In the state of California, these are commonly known as judgments. Certified copies of divorce decrees are either authorized or informational and must be obtained from the specific county Superior Court where the divorce papers were filed.

An informational divorce decree is available for family history or genealogy purposes. These, however, are stamped with a declaration that the document is not valid for identification purposes.

Divorce decrees are classified as confidential documents in California and while they can be ordered online, they are not available for downloading from the Internet.

The state imposes a fee for obtaining a copy, for both authorized and informational varieties.

In California, to requesting a certified divorce decree you must meet certain requirements, including:

  1. Be a named party in the divorce.
  2. Be a parent or legal guardian of a named party.
  3. Be a current spouse of a named party.
  4. Be a domestic partner of a named party.
  5. Be a sibling of a named party.
  6. Be a child of a named party.
  7. Be a grandparent of a named party.
  8. Be an authorized or legal representative of a named party.

As in all divorce matters, having a great support system including competent legal counsel is of the utmost importance. An experienced attorney will help make sure a divorce decree contains all the information it should.

Related Reading: Bankruptcy Or Divorce: Which Do You File First?

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