A divorce decree is a document that a judge signs and enters into court that represents the final judgment of the divorce. Within this judgment, you will find the layout for alimony, child support, debt, property division, and parenting issues such as parenting schedule or legal vs. physical custody (please see our blog about the difference between legal vs. physical custody).
This document officially ends your marriage, and it outlines the necessary steps and responsibilities that you and your former spouse must take on as the divorce ends. It also lists the division of assets, which means that you should be extremely diligent and careful with what is included in the decree. Do not casually take on financial responsibilities that you are not completely sure you can handle simply because you want to wrap up your divorce, only to be unable to handle the responsibilities later and have no way out from under them.
On the flip side, don’t assume that what you are offered from your spouse is all that you deserve and have a right to, even if their offer seems “overly generous”. You should have your attorney rigorously go through their financials, as they may be able to spot something that you didn’t notice or something that was withheld. Not only is it possible that they have something you are entitled to a part of, but there might also be something they acquire years later that you could have a claim to.
One of the most common misconceptions is that lawyers are just ancillary to getting their fair cut of the divorce. But what many people who do their own divorces don’t realize until it is far too late, is that if there is something that is left out of “the final divorce judgment”, it is very likely that there will not be any recourse to amend that mistake.
Thoroughness and accuracy are vital when reviewing the final draft of an agreement, as well as a detailed understanding of the law as it applies to your specific divorce. Your attorney is able to represent your best interests, both in the immediate future and down the road.