When a married couple gets divorced in New Jersey, the court will issue a divorce decree after the case. This is a legal document through which the marriage is dissolved. The decree will include the date of the divorce, any name changes, the divorce grounds, and any agreement or order that has been made and included in the judgment. If a couple does not have a divorce decree, they are still legally married. When you do receive a divorce decree following the end of your case, it will show that your marriage has been legally terminated and allow you to remarry someone else. Your divorce decree might also be important for other situations. Here is some information that you should know from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC.
What Is a Divorce Decree in New Jersey?
People refer to divorce decrees interchangeably with divorce judgments, but they are the same thing. A divorce decree is the court's official order that legally dissolves a marriage. The decree identifies the parties and includes all of the divorce details. It orders how the property will be divided and provides for child custody, support, and alimony if applicable. Once a divorce decree is entered by the court, it will become a part of the court's public records. This means that third parties can access it under the state's Open Public Records Act.
A divorce decree is different than a divorce certificate. The information included in a divorce certificate is limited and only includes the names of the involved parties and that the divorce has been finalized. By contrast, a divorce decree includes much more robust information than a divorce certificate.
What Information Is Included in a Divorce Decree?
When a married spouse files a divorce petition, it signals that they do not want to remain married. Getting divorced means severing the bonds of marriage, but it also involves separating the property and debts the couple has accumulated while married. If you and your spouse have accumulated property and assets, acquired debts, or have had children, you and your spouse will either need to reach a settlement agreement or allow the court to determine how everything should be divided and handled.
During your divorce, you and/or the court will have to determine how to distribute your marital assets, apportion the debts, divide your marital property, and determine how child custody and support will be handled. If you or your spouse has requested alimony, that will also need to be addressed. Your divorce decree will address each of these issues by either incorporating your settlement agreement into the decree or by the judge rendering a decision.
Divorce Decree Following a Trial vs. a Settlement Agreement
If you and your spouse are unable to agree to the terms of a settlement agreement, your case will go to trial. At the trial, you and your spouse will be allowed to present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. Once both of you and your attorneys have finished presenting your cases, the court will make findings about the divorce's cause and the types of legal relief each of you has asked for. The judge's decision about each of the various outstanding issues will be included as a part of your divorce decree.
If you and your spouse instead negotiate and reach a settlement agreement through which you agree to all of the terms, the court will incorporate your agreement into the divorce decree. In some cases, couples can reach partial settlement agreements while going to trial on a limited set of issues. In that situation, the court will issue orders on the limited issues following the divorce trial and incorporate the partial settlement agreement for the agreed-upon issues.
What Other Information Is Included in a Divorce Decree?
In addition to the settlement agreement or court's orders, the divorce decree will include the following information:
- Names of both parties
- Cause of action
- Statement of the court's jurisdiction
- Order of dissolution of the marriage
- Case number
While all divorces in New Jersey will have divorce decrees, the information that might be included will depend on whether the couple has children or property.
The following types of information in a divorce decree can be redacted to protect it from third parties:
- Social Security numbers
- Children's names
- Financial information
- Asset information
Importance of a Divorce Decree Going Forward
Your divorce decree is an important document because it memorializes the court's orders in your case, including any settlement agreement that is incorporated. If your spouse later defaults on the agreement or fails to comply with the court's orders, you can use your decree as the basis to seek an order of enforcement. Your decree might also be important if your circumstances change and lead you to need to ask for a modification of one of the orders. For example, if you are ordered to pay a certain amount of alimony to your former spouse each month but lose your job, you might ask for a modification of the court's alimony order because of your changed financial circumstances.
Similarly, if your spouse fails to refinance the marital home in their name by the specified date, you can file a motion with the court to enforce its order. You can also seek modifications of the child custody orders if you want to move out of state or if the circumstances have otherwise changed.
There are also times when you will need your divorce decree to do certain things. Some of the times when you might need to produce your divorce decree include the following:
- Changing your name on your passport, driver's license, and Social Security card
- Changing your property rights under your agreement
- Proving your child custody arrangement
- Applying to get a marriage license to marry a new partner
- Applying for a child's passport
- Showing that your ex-spouse has violated the terms of your divorce decree
- Defending against your ex-spouse's allegations that you have violated the terms of your divorce
Once your divorce is final, you will receive a copy of the divorce decree. Make sure to retain this document in your records. If you need to get a new copy of it, you can request a copy through the Court Records Center with the New Jersey Superior Court.
Speak With a Divorce Attorney in Essex County NJ
Whether you are currently going through a divorce or have already had your divorce finalized, your divorce decree is important. If you need to modify the orders contained in your decree, your ability to do so will depend on your circumstances and whether you and your spouse negotiated an agreement or left the decisions up to the court in a trial. In either case, it will be important for you to seek help from an NJ divorce attorney at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC to ensure everything is handled properly. Contact us today for help with obtaining, modifying, or enforcing a divorce decree by calling (973) 878-4373.
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