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What is a Divorce Decree in New Jersey?

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

A divorce decree is a court’s judgment dissolving the bonds of marriage.  The decree includes the date you were divorced, the grounds for divorce, any change in name, as well as any ruling or agreement made and incorporated into the judgment. If there is no divorce decree (also known as a judgment), this essentially means you are not legally divorced.  However, if you do have a divorce decree, it will be referred to from time to time, as it will direct the future between you and your ex-spouse.

What can I expect to find in my divorce decree?

Divorces are filed because two people that are legally married no longer want to be married.  However, the married couple built a life together, and the life they created undoubtedly included accumulating property, maintaining employment, securing assets, perhaps having children, and acquiring debts.  If this applies to you, divorce will force you and the court to distribute these assets, apportion the debts, order child support and alimony, and divide any property. As such, a judgment of divorce and decree will address these issues by rendering an opinion or by incorporating a marital settlement agreement made with the consent of both parties.

What will the court put in the divorce decree if I have a trial or if we agree on the terms?

At a trial, the judge will listen to the arguments of the attorneys, hear from witnesses, and review all evidence.  At the end of the case, the judge will make findings as to the cause of the divorce and the relief sought. For example, if you file a claim seeking a divorce based on your spouse’s adultery and you request child support, marital property, and alimony in New Jersey, the judge will decide what to do.  Any decision the judge makes becomes part of the judgment/decree. However, if you and your spouse agree on terms, the judge will incorporate those terms into the judgment of divorce. As noted above, the marital settlement agreement includes issues concerning child support, custody, division of assets and debts, and any other marital issues. 

General information included in the divorce decree/judgment

Aside from the agreement or the terms as outlined by the judge, the decree will include basic information.The judgment of divorce will list the names of the parties, the proven cause of action, that the specific court has jurisdiction, and it will set forth that the marriage is dissolved. Additionally, the judgment will have a docket number listed, which will help identify your case in the event that there are any issues in the future. 

How does the divorce decree impact me in the future?

Any time you have any issue with regard to your judgment of divorce, your decree acts as a guide for what should have happened and what will happen.  In other words, your decree is the baseline or default from which you otherwise seek divorce modifications. For example, if your decree directs you to sell the marital home and split the proceeds, then you would do as ordered or agreed to. If your spouse fails to cooperate in selling the home, you can file a motion to enforce the judgment. Similarly, you can file motions to amend or modify the judgment if there has been a change in circumstances. This may apply to alimony, child custody, or child support. For instance, if a former spouse who was receiving alimony chooses to get remarried or move in with another person, the spouse making alimony payments may file a motion to terminate these payments going forward. In other cases, one parent wants to move to another state, thus requiring a review and possible change in the child custody arrangement. 

Contact an experienced divorce attorney in Morris County, NJ

Modifying a divorce decree can eventually be a simple or difficult process, it depends on the level of agreement you and your former spouse agreed upon. One way or the other, it is advisable to have the modification properly and professionally drafted and presented to the court.

If you need assistance in obtaining, enforcing, or modifying a judgment of divorce, contact our family law firm for a consultation. Our attorneys can assist you with any questions surrounding your divorce decree in New Jersey. 

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.