Perhaps the most important document of your entire divorce process is your divorce decree. It serves as your official proof of divorce, but it’s more than just a divorce certificate. It’s an official document and a part of your divorce record that outlines the details of your final judgment.
Receipt upon divorce
A divorce decree is a document issued by the court that officially ends your marriage. It may include detailed information about your property division, child custody and child support arrangements, alimony or spousal support payments, and name change. You’ll receive a copy during the final hearing of your divorce proceedings.
This important piece of paper should be stored in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe or safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. While you could get another copy from your county clerk, it can be a hassle, and it costs money.
When you receive your divorce decree, provide the updated information about your marital status to any relevant parties, such as your bank, so there are no discrepancies in their records.
Why would you need a copy of your divorce decree?
Having an up-to-date copy of your divorce decree is essential for many situations. For example, if you ever have a dispute with your former spouse over child custody arrangements or spousal support payments, having an official copy of the court order can help resolve any confusion quickly and easily. If you ever remarry or apply for state benefits, having a valid copy of your divorce decree on hand will make applying much easier and faster.
A certificate of divorce differs from a divorce decree. Whereas a divorce certificate contains basic information about marital status, a final divorce decree provides detailed information about parting agreements between ex-spouses.
Getting a new copy of your divorce decree
If you don’t have an up-to-date copy of your divorce decree on hand, or your copy has been lost or destroyed, there are a few ways to get another one.
The option that will work every time but could be a hassle (and cost money) is to request one from the courthouse where the original was issued. Go to your local family court clerk, and tell them you need a copy of your final divorce judgment. They can get you one, but most clerks charge for making a copy. If you need a certified copy, expect to pay a dollar or more per copy.
If you worked with a divorce attorney, it's worth a call to their office to see if they have a copy for you. Note that there may be times when you need a certified copy, such as when you want to open a new bank account. Your lawyer can't provide that for you. You'd need to go see the clerk instead.
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Suggested reading: 12 Things People Forget to Include in Their Marital Settlement Agreements