Divorce is a legal procedure that dissolves a marriage. After a divorce is completed, each party may remarry if they choose to do so.

Divorce laws are the laws that govern divorces. A divorce decree is a final ruling from a court that provides a judgment and order, making the cessation of the marriage official.

Every divorce decree will be different and will be based upon the individual facts and circumstances of the case. The general purpose of a divorce decree is to summarize the privileges and responsibilities of each party in connection with the divorce and provide instructions regarding child custody and division of property, if applicable.

A divorce decree is significant because the divorce process will not be done until the decree is issued. Thus, an individual’s status as either married or divorced will not be changed or finalized until the divorce decree is ordered.

Divorce proceedings that are not yet concluded may affect many different areas of the people’s lives, including:

  • Debt;
  • Property possession;
  • Taxes;
  • Employment benefits; and
  • Other legal rights.

A divorce decree usually addresses issues such as:

Divorce decrees also address issues related to children, if applicable, including:

  • Custody;
  • Support;
  • Visitation; and
  • The financial obligations of each party, for instance, if debts are to be paid by one or more of the parties.

In addition to these legal matters, a divorce decree will generally contain important details regarding the case, including:

  • The names of the parties;
  • The effective date of the divorce decree; and
  • The case number.

This info can be useful when an individual is attempting to find the divorce records in the future. The local county records office typically keeps these records.

A divorce record proves that the people were married and had legally and officially ended that marriage. A divorce record may also be referred to as a marriage dissolution certificate.

It is typically a copy of the divorce decree that is issued during the divorce proceedings. These documents are usually filed for safekeeping with the county recorder’s office where the divorce happened.

A divorce record may be official, meaning it can be accessed from state records for a fee, or indexed, which means it is accessible through various websites or organizations. A divorce record can usually be obtained at the county court where the divorce was filed.

If the record is not available there, it may be obtained at the local recorder’s office, on a website, or with a private company.

Residency Requirements for Obtaining a Divorce

Every state requires the spouse filing for a divorce to be a resident of that state. The time requirements to establish residency may vary.

Generally, however, the residency requirement ranges from 6 months to 1 year. There are also other guidelines for divorce that individuals should follow, including:

  • Being cooperative: the process will go much smoother if the parties aim to cooperate with all the other parties and lawyers involved. A party may be punished if they intentionally seek to disrupt or delay the process;
  • Being honest: legal penalties can result for falsifying information during divorce;
  • Exercising full disclosure: especially with regards to property and assets; and
  • Being prepared: many deadlines and document requests are going on during divorce. It will help if an individual can stay organized and on top of the requirements, especially during the initial stages.

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a new kind of dispute resolution with a structured, cooperative out-of-court approach. It is geared toward cooperatively and amicably resolving divorces among parties who agree not to go to court. It takes away the urge to fight and win in a courtroom setting. Rather, the objective is to reach a settlement that both parties find satisfactory.

Why Consider Collaborative Divorce?

Couples may wish to consider collaborative divorce for the following reasons:

  • They want to avoid litigation expenses
  • They want a quick divorce
  • They want to spare themselves and their children the emotional trauma associated with prolonged litigation
  • They want to have more power over their settlement as opposed to leaving it up to the courts

It’s essential to mention that if a collaborative divorce settlement is not reached, the parties may pay more than they would have if they had litigated the case from beginning to end. They took the additional effort to resolve the case through a collaborative effort. They also may find that they spent more time settling if their collaborative efforts fail initially for the same reason.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce Process?

The central focus of the collaborative divorce process is to amicably resolve the parties’ differences regarding property, support (child and alimony), and custody in a secure atmosphere outside of court. The basic process is as follows:

  • Each party hires its own attorney: An attorney who has experience with meditation is best to help advocate for your interests.
  • Discuss the case with your lawyer: The lawyer must know what you wish to achieve through a collaborative divorce proceeding, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you must have.
  • Sign an Amicability Agreement: This indicates that the parties are willing to use good faith and fairness in negotiating a resolution regarding their divorce in a collaborative law setting.
  • Neutral Setting: It is essential that neither side feels that they are favored (or disfavored) during the proceeding. For this reason, all meetings must take place in a neutral place.
  • Free Discussion: Parties can bring up any issues which may ultimately lead to a favorable resolution.
  • “No Court” Agreement: The parties and their lawyers sign a “no court” agreement that requires the lawyers to withdraw from the case if it does not get resolved and goes to litigation.

What Is Resolved Through the Collaborative Process?

Along with their lawyers, both parties are present at collaborative divorce meetings. The role of the lawyer is different than in courtroom settings. The purpose of your lawyer is to provide help and aim to come to an agreeable settlement as opposed to going toe-to-toe against the other party’s counsel. A mediator may also be present at the collaborative meeting in rare cases.

During the collaborative session, significant issues are hashed out, such as:

  • Real and personal property division
  • Spousal support, if any
  • Child support, if any
  • Other matters involving children (custody, visitation)
  • Damages or restitution that the other party may owe

In a collaborative meeting, the parties are urged to discuss things freely and openly to reach a mutually agreeable settlement on their own terms.

What If the Parties Do Not Agree?

If the parties cannot reach an agreement after a good faith effort, they are unrestricted to continue litigation in court. The participation agreement does not preclude the parties from terminating the process to litigate the issue, but they must not make threats of litigation during collaboration efforts.

If either party terminates collaborative meetings, they must provide written notice to the other party and to all lawyers stating an intent to withdraw. The collaboration agreement usually includes termination provisions that dictate how this should be done.

The clients are advised from the beginning that they will have to obtain new attorneys if they cannot reach an agreement and choose to file for divorce hearings in court.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

Suppose you are filing for divorce and believe collaborative law may lead to the best settlement agreement. In that case, you should contact a divorce lawyer with collaborative family law experience to discuss the process and your legal options.