Why You Should Keep a Copy of Your Divorce Decree Handy

After your split is official, you might think you’re done with the divorce process and the many divorce documents involved. But there are situations where you may need a copy of your divorce decree, like when buying a new home.

When you might need to produce your divorce decree

Your divorce decree is like a “ticket to ride.” You may need to provide a copy of this official document to various institutions for different reasons. Here are some common scenarios where a copy of your divorce decree comes in handy.

Changing your name post-divorce

A copy of a divorce decree is needed if you decide to make a name change after divorce. You'll need to present the divorce decree as proof to update your Social Security card, driver's license, passport, and other documents.

Getting remarried

Before you can legally remarry, you must provide proof that your previous marriage was legally dissolved. Your divorce decree serves as this evidence.

Removing your spouse from a bank account

To separate joint accounts or remove your former spouse’s name from an account, banks often require a copy of the divorce decree.

Refinancing a home

If you're looking to refinance your home after a divorce, your mortgage lender will likely request a copy of the divorce decree.

After a divorce, it's not uncommon for one spouse to keep the marital home while the other moves out. If you're the one keeping the home, you may want to refinance the mortgage to remove your ex-spouse's name from the loan and take advantage of lower interest rates or better terms. This is where the divorce decree comes into play.

Your decree is a legal court document and part of your divorce records. But is it part of the public record? If you’re concerned about others invading your privacy by reading it, check your state divorce laws for specifics. 

Why your mortgage lender wants to see your divorce decree

Ownership and financial responsibility

A divorce decree outlines the division of assets and debts agreed upon during the divorce proceedings. This includes the marital home and mortgage responsibility. The information allows the lender to verify who has the legal right to the property and who is responsible for mortgage payments, ensuring that the borrower applying for refinancing is solely accountable for the loan.

Debt-to-income ratio

A mortgage lender needs to calculate the borrower's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio to determine their ability to afford the new loan payments and qualify for refinancing. The divorce decree provides details about any alimony or child support payments the borrower is required to make or receive, which can significantly impact their DTI ratio. This information helps the lender assess the borrower's financial stability post-divorce.

Accurate credit report

Lenders rely on credit reports to evaluate a borrower's creditworthiness and decide on the terms of the new loan. The divorce decree helps lenders verify that the borrower's credit report accurately reflects their financial obligations after the divorce. 

For example, if the borrower's ex-spouse was responsible for certain debts but failed to pay them, the decree can help prove that the borrower should not be held accountable for those debts on their credit report.

Your divorce decree serves many informational purposes. It details the court’s final judgment on your property division, spousal support, and other basic information about your settlement. Your divorce certificate, on the other hand, is simply your proof of divorce.

Legal protection

From a mortgage lender's perspective, requiring a divorce decree helps protect their interests by confirming the borrower's sole ownership of the property. This minimizes the risk of potential legal disputes involving the ex-spouse, who may still have a legal claim to the property without the divorce decree as evidence. By reviewing the decree, lenders can avoid such complications for a smooth refinancing process.

How to get a copy of your divorce decree

Obtaining a copy of your divorce decree for a mortgage lender is an essential step in the refinancing process, especially if you have recently gone through a divorce. While you may already have copies of the decree from when your divorce was finalized, it's possible that you may need additional or certified copies for your mortgage lender. 

Here are the steps to take to obtain a copy of your divorce decree:

  • Visit the courthouse where your divorce was finalized
  • Request a certified copy from the court clerk
  • Pay for the copy
  • Double-check the paperwork you receive is for your divorce

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Suggested: Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate: Are They Different

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.