If you feel somewhat confused with all the divorce documents, you are not alone. Many people have trouble distinguishing between ‘divorce decree,’ ‘judgment of divorce,’ and ‘divorce certificate.’ If we add notions such as absolute divorce and decree nisi, we get a total hot mess and sporadic attempts to search online what all those words mean. Search no more. We have gathered all the information you need to know the difference and get a divorce decree.
A divorce certificate is a document that certifies that two individuals are divorced. It specifies their names and the date and place of the divorce. A divorce certificate is a one-page document issued by the bureau of vital statistics or the state’s health department where the divorce was memorialized.
A divorce decree, also referred to as a judgment in some states, is a court document that specifies the terms of a divorce, including child custody, child support, visitation arrangement, spousal support, property division, and other information. A divorce decree is a multi-page document issued by the court and signed by the judge.
Getting a Divorce Decree
Getting a divorce decree is part of the standard divorce process. Some US states include a divorce decree in the list of required forms to complete before filing for divorce. Others require the petitioner (the spouse filing the divorce paperwork) to submit a divorce decree after the bulk of divorce papers are filed. For example, Nevada’s Family Law Self-Help Center requests divorcing spouses to submit a proposed decree of divorce to review and advise about what to fix if needed.
At the end of a divorce case, the judge signs a prepared divorce decree that contains all of the agreed-upon terms of a divorce, including such details as maiden name, debts allocation, etc. If it wasn’t an uncontested divorce and the case went to trial, a decree of divorce will contain the judge’s decision that both the petitioner and the respondent must comply with.
Thus, each party of a divorce receives a certified copy after their case is finalized. The procedure of getting a divorce decree can differ from state to state. A divorce decree cannot be obtained online. It is a physical ink-and-paper document signed by the judge that signalizes that dissolution of marriage is complete.
But you can prepare divorce forms online, thus simplifying the paperwork. Various web divorce companies like connecticutonlinedivorce.com provide online divorce services, and it is entirely legal. The bottom line is quite simple: clients provide some information about their marriage, based on which the system selects the necessary forms and fills them out following the court’s requirements.
When they say “complete divorce online,” it means that the service helps to quickly and inexpensively prepare all the necessary divorce forms.
How to Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree
If either of the divorced spouses loses their divorce decree, it is possible to get a copy. As divorce is a court proceeding, divorce records are usually kept by the courts. A divorce decree is the type of document issued only to the parties in the divorce or their lawyers. However, it is possible to request a third party to pick up a certified divorce decree from the courthouse or a Vital Statistics office.
If you find you have little idea of what a divorce decree is and where you can get it, here are steps for you to take.
Step 1. Think who may have it or know where it is. If you had a divorce lawyer at the time, contact the lawyer’s office (and your ex-spouse’s attorney) and find out if they kept records. If you had a Do-It-Yourself divorce (without an attorney), gather personal information first. Here’s how:
Step 2. Identify where and when you divorced. All US states have specific residency requirements to apply for divorce. Since courthouses keep all divorce-related information, your divorce decree is at the courthouse where you and your spouse were divorced. The courthouse must be in the county where either you or your spouse lived at the time.
If you have the rest of the divorce papers, you can find the date when you were divorced and the case number. It will make searching for your information at the court clerk’s office quicker and easier. If you don’t have any divorce paperwork left, try to remember the year when you were divorced.
Step 3. Have your ID on you. Before you get your divorce decree, you will need to identify yourself to the officials at the courthouse. A passport or a driver’s license will make do.
Step 4. Search for copy fees. Courts typically charge for copies of documents. For certified copies, they change more. Search online beforehand to know how much it will cost you to make a certified copy of your divorce decree.
Step 5. Start looking. The court clerk’s office will advise you on where your divorce decree might be, depending on the date of the divorce. If your case was moved to the archive, it could take longer. If the records are kept at another place, the clerk will let you know.
Next, check out the Vital Statistics Office in your county. In many states, it is possible to request a copy of the divorce decree online.
Finally, if neither of the above variants has worked, it is possible to locate online divorce papers. The so-called divorce companies that help couples submit their application for divorce online usually don’t keep records and will not help you track down your divorce decree online. Simply search “find divorce decree” in a search engine of your choice and see what you get. Most websites that offer marriage and divorce records online charge a fee.
Tips for Getting Your Divorce Decree Online
- It is possible to order a copy of the divorce decree online in some states. Check out your state to find out if an online option is available.
- Check out the website of your local courthouse.
- If you wonder how affordable ordering a copy of a divorce decree may be for you, look for the section Filing Fees on the courthouse’s website. The cost of a divorce decree may vary depending on the state.
- Not all court documents can be accessed online. Some states and counties only keep records going back to a certain date. For example,Minnesota has no online divorce records earlier than 2009.
What is a Divorce Decree For?
Given all the information included in a divorce decree, it acts as a reminder for divorced spouses regarding the terms of their divorce and their obligations regarding their children, insurance, property, debts, etc. That is why after you get hold of the physical document, make sure it is accurate and appeal if something is not the way you and your spouse agreed. Also, do the following:
- Change your maiden name (if you intended)
- Change your will
- Change your power of attorney
- Change beneficiaries on your insurance policies
- Change or cancel your credit cards
- Put savings and checking accounts in your name only
- Update emergency contacts for your children’s school