One of the most common frustrations during the divorce process is waiting for the court to process your final divorce judgment, which makes you officially divorced. While nothing can push it along any faster, understanding the process and how to properly submit your judgment can help.
The divorce judgment (the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage) is the most important document in your divorce. It’s the final document in the divorce process — after you’ve submitted all the required forms to the court, completed negotiations with your spouse, and prepared your settlement agreement.
Your judgment outlines all of the details and legal issues in the case (those you agreed on and any you disputed but were ruled on by the court). It also includes the official date the marriage ended (and this is the first date you are able to legally remarry).
The judgment rules over all prior orders, such as the terms of support or custody. It’s critical to include any prior orders that you or your spouse want to keep in the judgment. Include all assets, debts, and terms of your divorce in it. if not, you may have to re-open the agreement.
Your divorce judgment goes through a rigorous review process which can take a while — sometimes several months. After this review, a judge approves it, a court clerk files it, and the court issues your marital status termination date. Some believe that this is the exact date that your six-month cooling-off period has ended, but that’s not always the case. Oftentimes, the court will terminate your marital status on the date that they filed your Judgment – which very well could be several months after the “cooling off period” has passed.
1. Submit your judgment
Usually, you submit a final order for a judge to sign along with a form which will likely be titled something like “Notice of Entry Judgment” or “Notice of Entry of Order.” On this form, you will put your name and address, plus your spouse’s name and address. Include stamped envelopes with this information, too, so the clerk can send you a notice after the judge signs. Either you and/or your spouse can complete all the required paperwork.
2. Attend a hearing if required
Sometimes you can get your final divorce order, or judgment, without going to court. Other times, a judge will require you to attend a hearing. Ask the clerk if a hearing is necessary before the judge will grant your divorce.
There is almost always a waiting period before your divorce can be finalized, determined by your state’s laws. Sometimes that’s when the responding party is served with papers. Other times it starts the day you filed for divorce.
You can submit your paperwork before the waiting period ends; however, that does not guarantee prompt processing or the official date of your legal divorce. If you submit your required documents after your waiting period is up, leave the date that your marital status ends blank for the clerk to fill in.
A judge needs to approve and sign your final judgment. Once a court clerk files the signed document, it officially terminates the marriage and becomes an official divorce decree. And, yes, that takes time. There are often delays due to backlogged court dockets. Some states also have a waiting period before a judge can approve and sign the judgment (to allow appeals).
4. Receive your final divorce decree — you’re officially divorced!
Like all your most important documents, keep a copy of your final divorce decree in a secure location. We recommend a digital copy as well as a physical copy. You’ll want to periodically review the conditions to ensure they are being met and do not need to be modified. This is especially true with custody and support terms.
You will want your final decree handy if you want to do things like changing your name, applying for a mortgage, remarrying, or applying for social security. If you need a new copy, you can request one from the court where your divorce was finalized.