Find the right lawyer now

What Is a Divorce Decree?

Find a Local Family Lawyer near You

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is the court’s final ruling and judgment order that makes the termination of a marriage official. Each divorce decree will be different, but in general the purpose of the decree is to summarize the rights and duties of each party in connection with the divorce.

Divorce decrees are important, because the divorce process is not complete until one is issued. Thus, the party’s status as married or divorce will not be finalized until the divorce decree is completed. Divorce proceedings that are not yet completed may have effects on different areas life, such as debt, property possession, taxes, and employment benefits, and other legal rights.

What Does a Divorce Decree Usually Contain?

Divorce decrees usually address issues such as:

  • Division of property between the parties
  • Spousal support or alimony
  • Child custody, support, and visitation (if applicable)
  • Various financial obligations of each party (for instance, if there is debt to be paid by one or more parties)

In addition to these legal issues, the divorce decree will usually contain basic information connected with the case, such as the names of each party, the effective date of the decree, and the case number. This can often help in locating records of the divorce decree in the future, which are often kept by the local county records office. 

Can Divorce Decrees Be Appealed or Modified?

Generally speaking, divorce decrees are final and binding upon the parties. However, there are some instances when the decree may be appealed or modified. 

Modifying a divorce decree may be possible in instances related to issues like child or spousal support, and visitation or custody rights. In most cases, the parties won’t be able to modify a decree if their dispute is over division of property.

Appealing a divorce decree is often limited to errors based on the lower court’s legal ruling. Appeals must be specifically requested (they are not automatically granted), and are subject to very strict filing deadlines. Only issues of law, not fact can be appealed.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Divorce Decree?

Divorce decrees are final and subject to very little change or modification once they’re issued. Thus, you need to think carefully when it comes to requesting certain actions during a divorce proceeding. A divorce lawyer can guide you throughout the entire divorce process to ensure that nothing is overlooked before the final divorce decree is issued. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-07-2018 03:29 AM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.