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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Divorce Decree

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a legal document that includes information about a divorce's terms and can serve as proof of a divorce.

Sometimes known as a "divorce judgment" or a "judgment of dissolution (JOD)," a divorce decree marks the legal end of a marriage. A court issues the document when a divorce is final.

What Information Is in a Divorce Decree?

Although there is not typically a standard form for this document, most divorce decrees include the following:

  • the case number
  • the official date of the end of the marriage
  • identifying information for both spouses, including full names, addresses, and dates of birth
  • identifying information for any minor children (and adult children, if relevant to the divorce)
  • information on child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), and division of marital property
  • the court's address and phone number
  • information about attorneys involved in the case
  • the judge involved in the case
  • a statement changing one of the spouse's last name (if requested)
  • a declaration that the divorce is final

The decree is valid when it has the judge's signature. In many jurisdictions, the court clerk will stamp the final order with an official court seal.

How to Get a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

If you didn't receive a certified copy of the divorce decree, you can request one from the county clerk's office where the divorce was finalized. Some courts allow you to make an online request, while others require that you make the request in writing. Most courts charge a fee to issue a certified divorce decree.

In order to be official, any copies of the final divorce decree must have the court's seal.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

A divorce certificate is another legal document that can show proof of divorce. Unlike a divorce decree, a divorce certificate is not a court document and does not include the details of a divorce settlement.

The state health department or bureau of vital statistics issues this certificate, not the court. It is a more straightforward document with less information than a divorce decree. A divorce certificate contains the following:

  • The names of both spouses
  • The date of the divorce
  • The name of the judge
  • The name and location of the court that granted the divorce

Not all states issue divorce certificates and the procedures to obtain a copy of this document can vary by state.

[Start Your Divorce Agreement]

Other Terms Relevant to a Divorce Decree

Here are some other pertinent terms and details regarding divorce settlements:

How to file for divorce: In order to file for the dissolution of a marriage, you must meet the requirements of the state where you live. These requirements typically include the following:

  • Filing the proper documents with the court
  • Paying the filing fees
  • Serving your spouse with the divorce documents

The two types of divorce are called Fault and No-fault. A no-fault divorce tends to be easier, faster, and less expensive than a fault-based divorce.

Divorce vs. legal separation: A divorce is the legal end of a marriage. On the other hand, legally separated people are still married but choose to live apart.

A legal separation is defined by a legal document that states each spouse's roles, responsibilities, and financials during their separation. Some legal separations are temporary, while others lead to divorce.

Annulment: An annulment is a court ruling that declares a marriage null and void. The difference between a divorce decree and an annulment is that a divorce decree ends a legal marriage, while an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid in the first place.

Some states require a marriage to have lasted one or two years before granting a divorce. However, someone can file for an annulment after a very brief marriage. Also, some states require that a married couple to legally separate before granting a divorce. That rule does not exist for an annulment.

Helpful Resources:

The Maryland People's Law Library - What is a Divorce Decree?

Nolo - What is a Divorce Decree?

LegalZoom - What Is a Final Divorce Decree?

Smith Strong, PLC - What is a Divorce Decree?

DivorceNet - Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate: What's the Difference?

Survive Divorce - Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a legal document that includes information about a divorce's terms and can serve as proof of a divorce.

Sometimes known as a "divorce judgment" or a "judgment of dissolution (JOD)," a divorce decree marks the legal end of a marriage. A court issues the document when a divorce is final.

What Information Is in a Divorce Decree?

Although there is not typically a standard form for this document, most divorce decrees include the following:

  • the case number
  • the official date of the end of the marriage
  • identifying information for both spouses, including full names, addresses, and dates of birth
  • identifying information for any minor children (and adult children, if relevant to the divorce)
  • information on child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), and division of marital property
  • the court's address and phone number
  • information about attorneys involved in the case
  • the judge involved in the case
  • a statement changing one of the spouse's last name (if requested)
  • a declaration that the divorce is final

The decree is valid when it has the judge's signature. In many jurisdictions, the court clerk will stamp the final order with an official court seal.

How to Get a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

If you didn't receive a certified copy of the divorce decree, you can request one from the county clerk's office where the divorce was finalized. Some courts allow you to make an online request, while others require that you make the request in writing. Most courts charge a fee to issue a certified divorce decree.

In order to be official, any copies of the final divorce decree must have the court's seal.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

A divorce certificate is another legal document that can show proof of divorce. Unlike a divorce decree, a divorce certificate is not a court document and does not include the details of a divorce settlement.

The state health department or bureau of vital statistics issues this certificate, not the court. It is a more straightforward document with less information than a divorce decree. A divorce certificate contains the following:

  • The names of both spouses
  • The date of the divorce
  • The name of the judge
  • The name and location of the court that granted the divorce

Not all states issue divorce certificates and the procedures to obtain a copy of this document can vary by state.

[Start Your Divorce Agreement]

Other Terms Relevant to a Divorce Decree

Here are some other pertinent terms and details regarding divorce settlements:

How to file for divorce: In order to file for the dissolution of a marriage, you must meet the requirements of the state where you live. These requirements typically include the following:

  • Filing the proper documents with the court
  • Paying the filing fees
  • Serving your spouse with the divorce documents

The two types of divorce are called Fault and No-fault. A no-fault divorce tends to be easier, faster, and less expensive than a fault-based divorce.

Divorce vs. legal separation: A divorce is the legal end of a marriage. On the other hand, legally separated people are still married but choose to live apart.

A legal separation is defined by a legal document that states each spouse's roles, responsibilities, and financials during their separation. Some legal separations are temporary, while others lead to divorce.

Annulment: An annulment is a court ruling that declares a marriage null and void. The difference between a divorce decree and an annulment is that a divorce decree ends a legal marriage, while an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid in the first place.

Some states require a marriage to have lasted one or two years before granting a divorce. However, someone can file for an annulment after a very brief marriage. Also, some states require that a married couple to legally separate before granting a divorce. That rule does not exist for an annulment.

Helpful Resources:

The Maryland People's Law Library - What is a Divorce Decree?

Nolo - What is a Divorce Decree?

LegalZoom - What Is a Final Divorce Decree?

Smith Strong, PLC - What is a Divorce Decree?

DivorceNet - Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate: What's the Difference?

Survive Divorce - Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate