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Thinking Ahead: What to Do When Your Divorce Papers Are Signed



Divorce is a multi-step process. Much thought and consideration should go into getting a divorce. If possible, marriage counseling should be sought to see if the relationship is salvageable. If it is not, then the next step is to find a divorce lawyer. Next, you and your attorney must the file the proper papers with the court and have the spouse sign the documents to make the divorce official. But even when divorce papers are signed, there is still more you must do to ensure all issues of legality and finances are resolved.

The Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is the legal document that denotes a court has dissolved your marriage. When the divorce papers are signed, it is very important to re-read the decree for a number of reasons.

First, the decree may contain judge's orders. If so, you will want to ensure that you understand these orders. If you require clarification, you should definitely consult your divorce lawyer.

The decree may contain orders that you must execute within a certain time. Make note of all orders that pertain to you, and mark on your calendar the deadlines for completing them.

When divorces papers are signed and a court issues a decree, the judge may make a mistake within the document. This can include something small such as a typo or something more serious that can dramatically affect the outcome of the divorce. Make sure to have your attorney review the decree along with you to catch any such errors.

Types of Divorce Orders

When divorce papers are signed, a judge may order one or both spouses to do certain things as a result of the divorce. The specifics of these orders will depend on a number of factors, including whether the couple shared custody of any children or shared ownership of any assets, including property.

The following is a short list of possible orders.

  • Child support payments
  • Transferring assets, including a house or car, to your ex-husband or ex-wife
  • Transferring retirement plan interest to your ex
  • Paying bills or loans

Altering a Divorce Decree

After reading the divorce decree, you may wish to alter parts of it. If there is any part of the decree you wish to change, discuss it with your lawyer and your ex-spouse. If your former spouse agrees to the changes, both of your attorneys will have to file a request with the courts to make the change.

However, if your ex-spouse objects to the changes, altering a divorce decree can be more difficult. If you feel like you were forced into agreeing to parts of your divorce settlement and now wish to alter the decree, talk with your lawyer. In such cases, your lawyer can file a motion with the judge for a new hearing to determine whether to make any changes. You will have up to 30 days after the final divorce order to request a new hearing in most states. This is why it is important to carefully read all documentation when the divorce papers are signed.

Filing an Appeal

If during the course of your divorce proceeding, you feel as if the judge made any sort of legal error, you can file an appeal. If you are granted an appeal, you may be able to have your final divorce decree altered by a judge. However, it is uncommon that an appeal is granted in a divorce case. It is important to understand that you cannot file an appeal simply because you disagree with the outcome of your case.

It is also important to consider the cost of an appeal. When appealing, there are additional charges you will incur, including lawyer's fees, a fee to file the appeal and paying for a trial transcript to supply to the court. If the court deems your appeal attempt frivolous, you may have to pay ex-spouse's appeals fees as well.

Living Single When Divorce Papers Are Signed

Once divorce papers are signed, and you have read the decree and have no changes to make, you can start thinking about life as a single person. It is your responsibility to make sure your finances and personal documents reflect your new single status. Consider changing your will, designate new beneficiaries for life insurance policies and adjust your tax withholdings.