What is a Divorce Decree?

You can think of the divorce decree as the final step towards obtaining your Virginia divorce.  In the eyes of the court this is the document that formally ends your marriage.  A divorce decree serves three main functions.  First, it contains information about you, your spouse, and any children from the marriage in order to clearly identify the parties to the divorce.  Second, it requires factual statements that ensure your divorce complies with Virginia law.  This includes information about how the parties were served, confirmation that both parties are adults, the type of divorce being granted, and the period of separation.  Third, the divorce decree will dictate the division of property and provide information about spousal support.

For most people the portions of the divorce decree about the division of property and support to be provided will be of the greatest interest because the factual information is relatively straightforward.  Generally, the divorce decree will include information about any amount of money to be paid beyond the date that the divorce is finalized.  That means it covers the division of property, disposal of debts, spousal support, and any obligations to children from the marriage. 

Property Settlement and Divorce Decrees

The level of detail in your divorce decree will depend on whether you have a separate property settlement agreement.  A property settlement agreement is an independent document describing the terms of your divorce and it is tailored to the particular circumstances of your situation.  In cases where a property settlement agreement exists, the divorce decree will be more concise because many of the details will be spelled out in the agreement.  If you have a property settlement agreement it will be incorporated, but not merged into the divorce decree.  This affects the ability to modify the agreement and ensures it remains enforceable.  In cases where a property settlement agreement cannot be reached the divorce decree will represent the court’s decision with respect to the division of propWhat is a Divorce Decree?erty and support. 

Another noteworthy aspect of the divorce decree in Virginia is that it includes a notification that you should file an updated beneficiary designation for any life insurance policies you have.  Not doing so could mean that your former spouse remains the designated beneficiary, even after the divorce is finalized.  

Once the divorce decree is finalized and granted, your divorce is official as a legal matter.  If you are planning to change your name and order a new social security card a certified copy of the divorce decree is necessary.  The divorce decree may also be helpful as a court order by providing one option for enforcing certain terms of your divorce.  In some circumstances, mainly those involving children, it may be possible to modify the divorce decree. 

The attorneys of Smith Strong, PLC can assist you each step of the way towards obtaining a divorce decree.  Our attorneys specialize in negotiating property settlement agreements and can ensure the terms of your divorce address your unique circumstances.  We can also help you obtain a copy of your divorce decree or modify it if necessary. 

References:

Va. Code Ann. § 20-111.1

Hillman v. Maretta, 133 S.Ct. 1943 (2013)