What is in a Divorce Decree?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Are you in the process of a divorce? Are you attempting to represent yourself? We would highly suggest that you reconsider. The reason we say this is that divorces can be incredibly intense and complex proceedings, especially when there is property that needs to be divided or when children are involved. And significantly, there are highly specific legal requirements of pleadings and orders that the parties in a divorce must adhere to for the divorce to be valid and legally enforceable. One of these orders is the final divorce decree.

Contents of a Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is the final order that a judge signs and enters, which grants a couple’s divorce. This order can result from an agreement of the parties or following a trial in which the court heard evidence. In order for the court to have the authority to grant a divorce, couples must have lived separate and apart for at least one year. And for the court to have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings, at least one of the spouses must have resided in North Carolina for a period of six months. The court’s order must contain findings that the one-year separation and six months residency requirements have been met.

In addition, the court may address the following subjects in the divorce decree.

  • Property Division. A court’s divorce decree can contain the court’s order as to the equitable division of marital property. This is an incredible source of conflict following a divorce. It is therefore incredibly important that the court’s orders and reasoning are clear and precise and that all of the requisite findings are made.
  • The court may also address spousal support in the final order. The order should identify the dependent spouse, the amount of alimony payments, and duration of the payments. In addition, if alimony is ordered, the court must articulate what factors were considered in reaching its determination.
  • Child Custody and Visitation. To parents, this is the most significant outcome of a divorce proceeding. A divorce decree can establish the custody arrangements of the children, the legal rights and duties of each parent, and visitation schedules. These orders must be specific, thoughtful, and serve the children’s best interest. There is great potential for unnecessary disputes if these orders are not specific enough.
  • Child Support. Parents have a duty to financially provide for their children. A court’s divorce order may contain child support orders, based on an “income shares” approach. If the court strays from the child support guidelines, it must make specific findings to support the deviation.

It is important to have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help with your divorce pleadings and the divorce decree. The reason we say this is that if you fail to properly plead for alimony or property division, you generally waive your ability to receive either when the judge signs the divorce decree. Further, an order risks being unenforceable or voidable if it is overly ambiguous, fails to contain required findings, addresses matters outside of the court’s discretion, or is unconscionably one-sided.

Contact New Direction Family Law

If you are separated and seeking a divorce, you should speak with an attorney. Even if you and your spouse are on amicable terms, divorce decrees are incredibly important documents that will have long lasting effects on your future and security. New Direction Family Law strives to provide thoughtful, meticulous representation and to make sure that orders are drafted right the first time. For twenty years, we have assisted clients in North Carolina seeking separations, divorces, and child custody. Call our team today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us online at our website.