With all the different divorce documents floating around, it can be hard to know what’s most important. Each one of the divorce papers serves a different purpose. You get your “divorce decree” from court, but a “divorce certificate” is not issued by a court.
What is a divorce decree?
A divorce decree is the official document issued by the court that formally ends your marriage. It contains information about your case, including spousal support, child support, custody, visitation, property division, and other information. Most divorce decrees are thorough and contain all of the agreed-upon information in your case, such as who is responsible for getting life and health insurance, if the wife can take her maiden name again, and how you will divide your debt.
If you and your spouse reached an agreement outside of court, then the divorce decree would include the terms of your settlement agreement (instead of court orders).
In some cases, the actual agreement may be spelled out in a separate document called a Marital Settlement Agreement.
If you didn’t go to trial but settled your case instead, the divorce decree will contain the terms of the settlement. The decree still acts as a final judgment, but you and your former spouse have decided upon the terms of your own divorce without the court’s input. Settling your case takes the decision out of the hands of the judge so long as the decision is not outrageous or one-sided. If it’s one-sided, the judge will usually intervene to help you work out the terms of your settlement.
Where do you get a copy of your divorce decree?
A certified copy of a divorce decree is provided by the courts, but if you lose the document, you should be able to complete some paperwork and submit it to the civil court where your divorce took place, as long as you are one of the parties to the divorce.
If you were not a party to the divorce, you may need notarized permission from one of the parties that grants you permission to access the decree. State laws require that courts must keep decrees on file for anywhere from 7 to 10 years.
What Happens After You Get Your Divorce Decree?
After you receive your divorce decree, you’ll want to make sure you’re obeying the decree and that your former spouse is, too.
After you get your divorce decree, make sure you:
- Read the decree for accuracy
- Ask your attorney if you have any questions
- File an appeal immediately if you’re not happy with the judge’s decision after a trial
- Change your will
- Change beneficiaries on your insurance policies
- Update emergency contacts for your child’s school
- Change your power of attorney
- Put savings and checking accounts in your name only
- Cancel or change credit cards
- Bring your former spouse back to court if the former spouse is violating the decree
- Bring the case back to court if you need to change spousal or child support later on
What is a divorce certificate?
A divorce certificate also known as proof of divorce, is a completely different document from a divorce decree. A certificate is not prepared by a court. Is much less detailed than a decree and only provides minimal information such as the names of the two spouses and the date and place a divorce was granted, but typically no other information.
In many cases, rather than having to produce a detailed decree, a divorce certificate may meet the requirements for a variety of legal purposes. It is most commonly used when someone wants to change their name or they want to get remarried.
Unlike a lengthy divorce decree, a divorce certificate is a simple document that shows:
- You are divorced
- The names of both former spouses
- The date of the divorce
- The place of the divorce.
Uses of a Divorce Certificate
A divorce certificate is used for limited purposes, and not all states issue a divorce certificate. You can use it for:
- Getting a name change
- Showing proof of divorce without revealing the details of your divorce
- Getting a travel visa
- Getting a passport, unless your name change is not on the certificate
- Inheritance purposes, to show you are single
- Getting married
- Anywhere you need to show proof of divorce.
Speak to a California Divorce Attorney for Your Divorce Needs
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Contact our law firm today at 562-439-9001 if you or someone you know needs the help of an experienced family law attorney. We will be here for you when you call. Schedule a free consultation!
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This is intended as general advice and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Each situation is unique and requires specific analysis of relevant contracts, facts and legal obligations.