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What Is A Divorce Decree?

man signing divorce decree

Every Texas divorce case starts when one spouse files a petition to dissolve the marriage, and it concludes when the court enters a final divorce decree. This document not only marks the closure of the divorce proceedings, but it is also the legal end to a marriage. Many parties obtain their decree by an uncontested agreement, as many judges will approve a settlement on the key issues. Others might work out disagreements through the mediation process, in which a trained professional guides the parties into reaching a compromise. For any issues that remain in contention, the court will hold a court proceeding to determine the outcome. .

Regardless of what route is taken in obtaining a final divorce decree, it is important to understand the legal implications of this crucial document. While it represents the end of your marriage, it also sets the stage for the post-divorce rights and responsibilities of the parties. Every final divorce decree is different, so you should rely on your Texas divorce lawyer to explain the details. An overview is also helpful. 

Legal Effect Of A Final Divorce Decree In Texas

Whenever a judge assigns his or her signature to a court document, the order has the effect of law. It may be a private law that applies only to those who are parties to the proceeding, but both are obligated to comply with the legal requirements contained within the order. Regardless of the fact that the divorce case has concluded, many legal obligations will continue – potentially for several years depending on the issue. Breaking this private law, whether intentionally or by mistake, can lead to serious consequences. In addition, a violation of the final divorce decree by one party opens the door to legal action by the other as described below.

Topics Covered In A Texas Final Divorce Decree

Once you know the impact of the court’s order, you should be aware of what terms and issues will be included in it. Your final divorce decree will provide for: 

  • Property Division: Texas is a community property state that follows the rule of equitable distribution of assets. This means that property is separated into what was acquired during the marriage and items that each individual owned beforehand. Then, assets are divided according to the interests of equity, i.e., fairness.
  • Spousal Support: When there is a significant financial disparity between the parties, one may be required to pay spousal support to the other. Very rarely will this be a permanent arrangement, so the divorce decree will include details on the type, amount, and duration of the support..
  • Child Custody, Visitation, and Support: Texas uses the term custodianship to refer to what you may know as custody, which involves allocations of parental responsibilities and decision-making involving the child. Possession is the equivalent of visitation or parenting time for the nonresidential parent. The final divorce decree will include details on these issues, so it remains law until children become adults – and potentially longer if the order includes requirements on paying into adulthood by virtue of a child’s disability. .

Legal Proceedings On Divorce Decrees

A violation of the court’s order is officially breaking the law. If you are in the position that you cannot comply or have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, it is wise to consider modification. Just as with the original divorce proceedings, you can handle this process by agreement, through mediation, or a contested hearing. Your request for modification could be based on employment, relocation, or many other factors, but you should go through the legal proceedings instead of defaulting on the decree.

Alternatively, you may be in the position that you must take enforcement action when your ex-spouse does not meet the requirements of the final divorce decree. There are multiple remedies that you may request from the court, including: 

  • Delivering assets that were to be turned over to you after divorce;
  • A money judgment if assets were dissipated or destroyed, or for unpaid alimony;
  • Altering the terms of custody or visitation;
  • Payment of any attorneys’ fees you incur for enforcing the final divorce decree; and
  • Contempt of court, which may include fines and other penalties.

Talk To A Texas Divorce Attorney About Court Orders and Proceedings

While this information is useful in understanding what a divorce decree is, there are many additional details you need to know when it comes to your unique circumstances. Our team at The Ramos Law Group, PLLC will be at your side throughout the process, so please contact our offices in Houston, TX today to schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer.