What is a Divorce Judgement?
There are many legal documents you may face during the course of the divorce process. These may include those certified or sworn by the parties and the judge’s orders. This article will explain what a Divorce Judgement is as well as what other legal documents you may encounter.
Keep in mind that a Divorce Judgement can also be called a Divorce Decree, a Judgement of Divorce, or a Final Judgement of Divorce. This language depends upon the state in which you file your divorce proceeding. This information about Divorce Judgements is from the office of a busy Philadelphia divorce attorney.
How Does a Divorce Unfold in Court?
How a divorce judgement unfolds legally will depend upon whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce. This is the determining factor of whether or not you go to court. An uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse agree to:
- Distribute your joint property
- Set terms of the child custody and parenting time arrangements
- Any support arrangements
Note: An uncontested divorce can also occur when one party files for divorce and the other party fails to file an Answer or officially acknowledge receipt of the papers.
Even in an uncontested divorce, it is not common for couples to agree on a solution to every single issue that must be resolved as part of the divorce. This is the work of the divorce attorneys. Their job is to negotiate on behalf of their clients until both parties agree upon terms. If the parties refuse to come to terms, the court may get involved in disputed matters. Regardless, you can expect that an uncontested divorce will finalize much more quickly than a contested divorce.
To understand more about an uncontested and contested divorce, read “How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?”
The timeline of the divorce process will vary according to the procedure in each state. However, a couple filing an uncontested divorce can expect to divorce in as little as four or five weeks or as long as a year. This timeline depends upon the family court docket backlog–or how busy they are at your local courthouse
A contested divorce is another matter entirely. The term “contested divorce” refers to a divorce proceeding in which the couple adamantly disagrees about any or all of the following:
- Whether to get divorced
- Who was at fault (in an at-fault state)
- The terms of the property settlement agreement in general
- What assets are considered community property (in a community property state)
- The terms of the parenting time arrangement
- Whether child support should be paid
- The terms of the child custody arrangement
- The amount of child support that should be paid
- Whether spousal support should be paid
- The amount of spousal support should be paid
The length of time it takes to resolve all of the issues in a contested divorce will vary greatly from case to case. If the parties enter into mediation or arbitration, that may help speed up the process. If the parties cannot agree and must make their arguments to the family law judge and let him or her decide for them, those hearings will proceed as quickly (or as slowly) as the court’s docket allows.
Typically, family law courts are busy. It is not unheard of for a contested divorce to take at least a year to conclude, and in some cases, to drag on for years.
So, a tip to the consumer: when you are asking questions and interviewing lawyers, and feel very strongly about a particular issue, make sure you ask the lawyer how winnable that issue will be for you and what the ballpark cost might be if you have to go to court to win it.
What Legal Documents Arise During a Divorce Proceeding?
The Plaintiff (and his or her attorneys) create the following legal documents:
- Complaint (or Petition) for Divorce
- Case Information Statement
- Certification of Service of Process on Defendant/Respondent
Note: Some states refer to the Plaintiff as the Petitioner.
While you may be the one filing for divorce, it’s possible that you are instead on the receiving end of a divorce filing from your spouse. Don’t panic! Instead, educate yourself about what to do if you are served divorce papers.
These are considered legal documents, and those filing must certify or swear that the information contained within them is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
What Happens After I File Divorce Papers?
Upon receipt of the filing, the family law judge will then issue a Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) preventing either party from selling or giving away marital assets, including the joint bank account.
Assuming that you are the one filing for divorce, your spouse (the Defendant, or Respondent) will have a certain amount of time to file his or her Answer to the divorce papers (Divorce Judgement). Again, your spouse must certify or swear that the information in their Answer is true and correct.
After receiving the divorce papers, if your spouse agrees with your filing or otherwise fails to file an Answer within the allotted time, the Plaintiff receives a Judgement by Default and a Final Judgement of Divorce. This will include a Child Support Order if needed, a Spousal Support Order if needed, and a Property Settlement Agreement providing for the distribution of the marital assets.
If your spouse disputes your divorce claim or requests different agreement details, he or she must also file a Case Information Statement. This statement discloses their financial situation and must also accompany a Certification of Service of Process.
In a contested divorce where your spouse expressed issues with custody, support, or distribution of marital assets, the court will then issue orders while you negotiate. Once both parties resolve all issues, the court will memorialize them in the Final Judgement of Divorce.
Are There Legal Documents That Come After the Divorce Judgement?
Yes. Additional court orders may occur if disputes continue. Such orders include:
- A modified Child Support Order
- Modified Spousal Support Order
- Modified Child Custody Agreement
If either party is not complying with the agreed terms, the judge might also issue an order for Contempt of Court or an Order to Pay Attorney’s Fees and Costs. Additionally, if a party fails to appear in court, the family law judge may even issue a Warrant for Arrest.
Lastly, if there are allegations of spousal or child abuse or harassment, the family law judge may issue a Temporary Restraining Order or a Final Restraining Order.
In conclusion, a divorce judgement finalizes your divorce but is not the only important legal document stemming from your divorce process. Your divorce judgement also may not be the last legal document governing you and your Ex. If there are disputes over child custody agreement, properties, or support amounts, more documents may follow. Also, if the financial circumstances of either spouse changes, this may affect the divorce agreement. Lastly, if there are allegations of abuse or harassment, there may be additional court orders following the Final Judgement of Divorce.
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted Philadelphia divorce lawyer.
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