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Does the State of California send a Divorce Decree after the settlement agreement?

Citrus Heights, CA |

I got a divorce settlement in April 2010. I never got a formal Divorce Decree from the court.

Attorney Answers 3


Usually the parties are ordered to prepare a formal Judgment and file that Judgment with the Court in order for the divorce to be final. You could possibly still be "officially" married. If the parties signed a settlement agreement, usually that agreement is incorporated into a final Judgment and that Judgment is filed with the Court.

You should contact an attorney to research your Court file to find out what your status is. Your specific county Court should have a self-help center that may assist you as well. Be careful if you decide to use a "non-attorney" to assist you as the final Judgment is a complicated instrument and needs to be done in a specific way, with very specific language and orders.

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The court doesn't prepare the "decree" (in California, the Judgment), and, as the earlier answer noted, if you or your spouse didn't prepare it, and submit it to the court in the proper form, you may not even be divorced yet.

One of you will need to prepare a judgment, and the accompanying other documents, and submit them to the court, with the required number of copies, any filing fees that are due, self-addressed stamped envelopes, etc. (your local court should have some sort of "judgment check sheet" which lists all the common mistakes in submitting these documents). Once the clerk, and the judge, have checked these over, and determined that they're OK and complete, and the judgment has been signed by the judge and "entered", officially by the clerk, you'll get a copy of the "Notice of Entry Of Judgment" (which you prepared) stamped by the court (in one of the envelopes you provided) showing that the judgment was entered. THEN you're done.

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Neither the Court nor the State will prepare your divorce decree: you and/or your spouse and/or your attorneys prepare the final judgment/decree, which is then filed with the court, signed by the judge, and returned to each of you or your attorneys. If you did not go through this process, it is very likely that you are still married. Depending on what county you filed in, you may be able to see an index of the documents and activity in your case online. Otherwise, you will have to go to the courthouse and research it in person. If you did go through this process, the court generally takes 6 to 8 weeks to return the signed decree.

I had a case similar to this one about 8 years ago, where the gentlemen who came to see me told me that two years ago he had hired a paralegal for $300 to do his divorce. Now he was one week away from marrying his new wife and, when he went to apply for the marriage license, he was told that he was still married to his first wife. It turned out that the paralegal did not file the proper judgment forms and, so, the divorce was never completed. Now, he had a wedding date in one week, with the hall booked, family flying in from all over the country, honeymoon scheduled and paid for -- and he was still married. He was very unhappy when I explained that the process to complete the divorce would take much longer than one week. What he thought was a simple, cheap way to get a divorce, ended up costing him much much more. Better to do it right the first time: GET AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU.

Good luck to you both.

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