A divorce is a legal process that legally dissolves a marriage. After the parties’ divorce is finalized, each individual is free to remarry if they desire to do so.
Divorce laws are those laws which govern divorce proceedings. A divorce decree is a final ruling from the court that provides a judgment and order which makes the termination of the marriage official.
Each divorce decree will be unique and will be based upon the unique facts and circumstances of each case. The general purpose of a divorce decree is to outline the rights and obligations of each party in connection with the divorce as well as to provide instructions regarding the divisions of property and child custody, if applicable.
Divorce decrees are very important because the divorce process will not be complete or finalized until the divorce decree is issued. Because of this, an individual’s status as married or divorced will not be altered or finalized until the divorce decree is issued.
Divorce proceedings which are not yet finalized may affect numerous areas of the parties’ lives, including:
- Property possession;
- Employment benefits; and
- Other legal rights.
Divorce decrees typically address issues including:
- Division of property between the parties;
- Spousal support or alimony;
- Issues related to children, if applicable, which may include:
- support; and
- visitation; and
- The financial obligations of each party, for example, if debts are to be paid by one party or the other.
In addition to these legal issues, divorce decrees will usually contain basic information regarding the case, including:
- The names of the parties;
- The effective date of the divorce decree; and
- The case number.
This information may be helpful when an individual is attempting to locate records related to the divorce in the future. The divorce record will provide evidence that the parties were married and that they have legally and officially terminated the marriage.
A divorce record is also referred to as a marriage dissolution certificate. This document is usually a copy of the divorce decree that was issued during the divorce proceedings.
These documents are typically filed safekeeping with the county recorder’s office where the divorce occurred. A divorce record may be official, which means it can be accessed from state records if an individual pays a fee or it may be indexed, meaning that it is accessible through various websites or organizations.
Typically, a divorce record can be obtained at the county court where the divorce was filed. If the record is not available at that location, it may be obtained:
- At the local recorder’s office, as noted above;
- On a website; or
- With a private company.
What is a Divorce Decree?
As noted above, a divorce decree is the final ruling and judgment order from a court which makes the termination of the marriage official. Every divorce decree will be different, but the general purpose of the decree is to summarize the rights and obligations of each party in connection with the divorce.
A divorce decree is very important because the divorce is not complete until it is issued and, therefore, the status of the parties as married or divorced will not be finalized until the decree is issued. Divorce proceedings which are not yet finalized may have an effect on many different aspects of an individual’s life, including:
- Property possession;
- Employment benefits; and
- Other legal rights.
How Do You Finalize a Divorce?
The majority of states will not automatically grant an individual a divorce when they file for one. There may be mandatory waiting periods between when a divorce is filed and when the divorced is finalized.
The purpose of this waiting period is to encourage reconciliation between the two spouses. If the divorce is uncontested, the waiting period may be the only substantial hurdle between the initial filing and the finalization of the divorce.
However, if a dispute arises between the parties regarding the outcome of the divorce, such as child support or division of property and debt, then the divorce is considered to be contested.
Any disputes in a contested divorce may delay the finalization of the divorce because they must be resolved through:
- A trial;
- Negotiation; or
What is the Waiting Period before a Divorce Is Finalized?
As previously noted, a divorce may not be finalized in certain states until the waiting period has passed. Each state has its own length of waiting period.
Usually, if a couple files jointly for a divorce, the waiting period clock begins at the time of the filing. If only one of the spouses files for divorce, the clock will start ticking when the other party has been served and given notice of the divorce.
The length of the waiting period prior to a divorce being finalized varies by state, including:
- California: 6 months between the day the respondent spouse is served with the divorce papers and the day the divorce is officially finalized;
- Florida: 20 days from when the divorce is filed and when it is finalized, unless the court determines that an injustice would occur by the waiting period;
- Illinois: Generally the parties must show that the spouses have lived separate and apart for a continuous period in excess of 2 years separate and apart, which does not necessarily mean separate housing. However, in a no-fault divorce, if the spouses have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least 6 months, the parties can stipulate in writing to waive the 2-year living apart requirement;
- New York: 30 days between the day the respondent spouse is officially served with the divorce papers and the day the divorce is officially finalized; and
- Texas: 60 days from when the divorce is filed and when it is finalized.
Can I Stop My Divorce Proceedings?
A court will consider a marital contract to be a partnership contract. Therefore, one spouse is not permitted to force the other spouse to remain in that contract even when the spouse wants to stop the divorce.
As a result, stopping divorce proceedings may, in some cases, be challenging if the process is already underway. The law, however, does not forbid both of the spouses from reconciling their disagreements so long as it is done within the statutorily set time prior to the divorce being finalized.
There are waiting periods as discussed above. Depending upon the jurisdiction where the divorce proceeding is occurring, it may be helpful for an individual to consult the local court rules in order to determine whether a revocation to stop a divorce may be timely filed.
What about Spouses Who Want to Reconcile?
A couple who wishes to reconcile after beginning their divorce proceedings should first examine their documents and filing to determine what stage their proceedings are in. if a final judgment has not yet been granted, a spouse may be able to request that the court stop the divorce proceedings.
A court will frequently stop divorce proceedings to allow for:
- Mediation; or
- An opportunity to negotiate.
This is the case unless one of the spouses demands dissolution, in which case, the divorce proceedings will resume. It is important to remember that a court will not take kindly to a delay tactic or an unreasonable argument.
What if I Miss the Statutory Deadline to Stop the Divorce?
If the spouses find themselves in the unfortunate position having filed for divorce but missing the statutory deadline to stop their divorce proceedings, either spouse will be required to file additional motions with the court to overturn the divorce proceedings.
Should I Consult a Family Lawyer?
If you are in the process of going through a divorce, it may be helpful to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. Your lawyer will represent you in court and fight to protect your best interests.
If you decide you do not want to go through with the divorce, your lawyer can assist you with stopping the proceedings if that is possible.