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Understanding Your Final Decree Of Divorce

dealing with divorce decree

Regardless of whether Texas divorce proceedings took a few weeks or several months, you will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief when the process is complete and you have a final decree of divorce in hand. In a certain sense, the document is symbolic. It provides closure to your relationship and an end to the divorce case, while opening the door to fresh opportunities and a new lifestyle.

However, the legal impact of a final divorce decree carries much more significance than what you might expect from a mere piece of paper. It is an official court order that is binding on the parties, similar to a private law that applies to you specifically. Therefore, violations of the provisions within a divorce decree are a violation of law. The party affected by noncompliance has options to enforce the divorce decree, while the breaching party could face serious consequences for defying the court. 

As such, the keys to understanding the final divorce decree are knowing what appears in the order and how to enforce it if necessary. While you can trust a Texas divorce lawyer to handle the essential legal tasks, some background information is useful.

Topics Covered By Your Texas Final Divorce Decree

Every case is different, so the specifics of the court order will vary considerably. Plus, there are different paths that parties will take to arrive at the content contained in the final divorce decree. Some couples can agree on most or all divorce issues, while others must go through mediation or a court hearing to resolve disputes.

Your final divorce decree may include provisions on:

  • Identification of each party’s separate property and debts, which will remain that person’s assets and obligations post-divorce;
  • Identification of community property acquired by the parties during their marriage, along with details on how assets are to be equitably distributed between them;
  • The specifics of your parenting plan if you have minor children, including conservatorship, possession, and access – terms Texas uses to refer to custody and visitation;
  • Child support, including whether the amount goes by statutory guidelines or is based upon other factors;
  • Spousal maintenance, if the court determines that a lower earning spouse will face financial challenges; and,
  • A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) related to distributions of funds from retirement plans, if applicable.

Enforcement Options

When one party cannot or will not abide by the terms of the final divorce decree, the other may need to consider strategies for enforcement. The process for doing so is filing a motion for enforcement, through which you can pursue various objectives:

  • Delivery of Assets: The final divorce decree acts as a muniment, i.e., a document representing a transfer of property. However, you may need to go to court to effect the physical act of handing the asset over.
  • Money Judgement: When an asset has been significantly depleted or no longer exists, a motion for enforcement can be used to obtain a money judgment. The breaching party will be required to pay the fair market value.
  • Attorneys’ Fees: A non-breaching party may incur substantial legal costs through enforcement action, so a judge may require the breaching party to pay attorneys’ fees.
  • Contempt: A court has the power to punish someone for defying its order, and the penalties are typically related to the nature of the breach. The judge could modify custody or visitation for violation of parenting plan or levy a fine, but jail time is possible for extreme cases.

Get Legal Help From A Texas Divorce Attorney

This overview may give you a better understanding of the purpose and effect of a final divorce decree, but it is wise to rely on skilled legal counsel for assistance. Before the order is entered, you want to make sure your rights are protected; after the judge signs it, you must comply with the provisions and take action if your ex does not. For more information, please contact the Houston, TX offices of The Ramos Law Group, PLLC. We can set up a consultation to explain the divorce process and role of the final divorce decree.