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A Decree of Divorce

A decree of divorce is the official court order that legal dissolves a marriage. This is the document that the judge validates and is notarized by the county clerk. Copies of this document are given to both former spouses and enter the public domain. There are a number of contingencies addressed in any given decree of divorce, such as:

Alimony: The first concern with settling a divorce is delineating each spouse's obligation (if any) to pay alimony. The judge will take each spouse?s gross income into consideration, then all the financial obligations will be taken into account. Should either spouse fall under the poverty level or fail to make ends meet, then the judge will order the other spouse to contribute some amount of his or her income to the other spouse.

Property Division: This is one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce. The division of property can bring out the worst in any couple, even when they are looking forward to no longer living together. All property acquired after the marriage is considered joint property. This joint property must be divided in an impartial manner. What can complicate this contentious process is determining whether or not property acquired before the marriage is subject to division.

Custody: More than the division of property, vying for child custody is an extremely emotional -- and hotly contested -- aspect of any divorce proceedings. Legal custody allows the parent to make decisions concerning education, health care, and where the child will live. In some instances, the judge may require the parent with custody to get clearance to relocate a child or send a child to a certain school. Indeed, the court must balance the needs of the child with the needs of both parents.

Child Support: Child custody is not necessarily based on financial wherewithal. The court will place the child with whichever parent meet the emotional needs of the child. Child support is designed to financially buttress the needs of the child, even if the parent with custody is financially viable. The concern is for the needs of the child. There are some guidelines the court must abide by, namely:

  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to support him or herself
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced
  • Provisions for the number of children involved

The Legal Definition of a Decree of Divorce


Keep in mind the court will seek to determine whether or not one of the spouses was at fault. Adultery or marital misconduct are two prominent faults that could cause the judge to disregard conditional premarital agreements. On the other hand, a no-fault divorce is one in which both parties essentially claim irreconcilable differences and mutually agree to dissolve the marriage in an equitable way.

Regardless of fault, the end of marriage is official only when the court issues the decree of divorce. Once certified by the county clerk, the decree is considered to be in affect and all property and child custody rulings must be adhered to. Despite however eager either spouse is, the issuance of the decree can be extremely emotional. It is not uncommon for either spouse to experience deep feelings of depression or anxiety.

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