What is a Divorce Decree?
Most people filing for divorce may know that they receive something in the end that grants them a divorce, but may not know exactly what is stated in the decree. At the end of your divorce, the judge will issue an order that forever divorces you from your spouse. This order is typically called a divorce decree or final judgment of divorce and it is usually about a page or two in length. It is signed by the divorce judge and declares the terms of your divorce that you and your ex-spouse must now abide by.
The decree will be different depending on the process by which you obtained the divorce, whether it was a contested or an uncontested divorce. In a contested divorce, it will usually declare what the judge in the case has decided after hearing all the evidence at a trial. It can be longer than a divorce that results in a settlement agreement being reached by both parties since it spells out all of the terms of the divorce, including the division of marital debts, custody issues, and other such disputed issues that were not reached by agreement. For example, if an agreement has been reached during the contested divorce process then the order may look more like an uncontested divorce decree.
In a no fault or uncontested divorce decree, it is usually much shorter in length since it may not refer to the specific terms of your agreement, but just to the agreement itself. It will usually state that the agreement reached by both parties is incorporated into the decree, which means that the agreement signed by both parties is made a part of the decree and is to be followed by both parties as part of the court’s order. This single reference to the agreement being incorporated into the decree can take the place of all of the specific items that are addressed in an order without such an agreement.
In either type of divorce, the decree will usually state that the Complaint for divorce that was filed by the Plaintiff is hereby granted and that both parties are forever divorced from one another, and will give the grounds for divorce such as incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, adultery, or any other such grounds. It will also state that neither person can get remarried to another individual for sixty (60) days from the date of the decree. The State of Alabama has a waiting period of sixty days before you can get remarried again and it is illegal to remarry to another person during this time in this state. This statute can be found in Alabama Code § 30-2-10.
The decree may also address the cost of the divorce case, stating whether either party still owes anything to the other for the cost of the law suit. For example, it might say that all costs are taxed as paid, meaning that things like the attorneys fees or filing fees for both parties have been paid already unless otherwise addressed somewhere else in the decree or the agreement. If you have minor children of the marriage, then the decree may state the Alabama Relocation Act. The language from this Alabama statute must be in all agreements that have been reached where children are involved. This Alabama law states the proper procedures to follow if either parent is relocating or moving, including the proper way to provide notice of such a move and the time frames during which you must do so. The decree may also declare that the wife shall resume the use of her maiden name, changing her name without having to go through the normal procedures of probate court.
The decree may also declare such things as the child support to be paid in the case or other such items that are already stated in the agreement. However, sometimes if this is already addressed in the agreement, and the settlement agreement has been incorporated into the decree, the judge may not include this language in the decree itself. Depending on the county you file in, and the particular judge in your case, there may be vastly different language in the decree. Each judge in every county has their own language that they prefer in their decrees. So, depending on where you file and what judge is assigned to your case, your decree could look very different. This is why it is important to retain a local divorce attorney when filing your case, whether contested or uncontested, so that they can ensure that the decree is proper for your particular case.