No one really likes paperwork, but it’s part of a lot of the important processes of life. This includes divorce. Once you make up your mind to file for divorce, you’ll encounter different types of documents before, during, and after the completion of the divorce process. Arguably the most important of such documents is the divorce decree and the divorce certificate, but you only get to pick one. What’s a divorce decree vs. divorce certificate, and is one better than the other?

Many people confuse the two documents in terms of meaning and usability. This article seeks to elaborate on the difference between a divorce decree vs. a divorce certificate in California. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of these divorce documents!

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The Divorce Certificate

Let’s start with the divorce certificate since it’s the simpler of the two in the divorce decree vs divorce certificate question. A certificate of divorce represents proof of your divorce. It doesn’t dive deeper into the details of the divorce like a divorce decree, which you’ll learn about in a moment.

The divorce certificate only contains brief information; it’s similar to a marriage certificate in that regard.  It includes the names of the two spouses, the date, and the location of the divorce for informational purposes. This document acts as a proof for your divorce, but it doesn’t outline the terms of the divorce as other divorce forms do.

In cases where you don’t need a detailed decree, you may use a divorce certificate. An example of a legal application for a divorce certificate entails when you want to change your name or get remarried.

Getting a Divorce Certificate

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Getting a divorce certificate doesn’t demand the effort of acquiring some other divorce records. The state issued you with this document, and it’s majorly for record-keeping. Note that the court doesn’t issue this document.

In the U.S., laws vary by the state concerning those eligible for a divorce certificate apart from the divorced couple or their attorney. The National Center for Health Statistics provides information on where one can access a divorce certificate based on their state. This body keeps records of all U.S. states, hence enabling easy access to both divorce decrees and divorce certificates. It also outlines which agencies one can obtain other important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates.

Apart from that, you can always conduct online searches to determine other reputable companies that can provide access to these vital documents. There are plenty of third-party options, but be wary of being overcharged.

Uses of a Divorce Certificate

Despite its limited use, this document represents a vital record. Since not all states offer this document, you need to first confirm this with your state of residence. In California, you can use a divorce certificate for the following reasons or purposes:

  • Obtaining a travel visa
  • Proving that you divorced without exposing any finer details for the divorce
  • Requesting a name change i.e., going back to the names you used before getting married
  • Request form for a passport
  • Inheritance purposes
  • Proving that you can proceed with your marriage to a different person

The Divorce Decree

amicable divorceA divorce decree, also known as a divorce judgment, is by far the more complex in the divorce decree vs divorce certificate comparison. This is an official document that you receive from the court to indicate the dissolution of marriage. In California, this official document signifies the end of the divorce process that you and your partner undertook.

The divorce decree contains key facts and information concerning the termination of your marriage. Such facts and information, as outlined by the judge, including issues related to:

  • Asset division
  • Child custody arrangements and visitation
  • Child support
  • Alimony (former spousal maintenance payments)

In scenarios where you and your partner solved the issues of your divorce out of court, the decree will indicate your final settlement agreement. A settlement agreement serves the same function as a court order, which is used if the court steps in to settle a marriage agreement.

In most instances, the judge has the singular duty of signing a divorce decree. After that, the filing of this important document takes place through your county clerk at the county courthouse.

Where Can You Get a Copy of a Divorce Decree?

Another question that may come to mind is: what if I lose this important document? Everyone loses things occasionally, and this has certainly happened to others in the past. The good news is, you can always request a certified copy of a divorce decree from the court.

What if you need to get a copy of someone else’s divorce decree? In scenarios where you never participated in the divorce proceedings, you may request notarized permission from either of the involved parties.

You may request a divorce decree from the courts at any time between 7 to 10 years after the divorce. California laws require the courts to keep such divorce papers for this time range.

What to Do After Receiving Your Divorce Decree

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A divorce decree signifies the end of your marriage or domestic partnership. It also grants you the freedom to get married to someone else.

Since it’s a legally binding document, a divorce decree outlines various rules that you should adhere to after the entire divorce process. If either of the parties violates the instructions outlined in the divorce decree document, legal action may follow. Some of the key issues that you need to note include alimony and child support, property division, accounts that need closure following the divorce, and specific deadlines.

Here’s a quick checklist of tasks you should complete (if you haven’t already) after receiving a decree for your divorce. Remember that when submitting property for division in financial institutions, you should carry with you a copy of your divorce decree. This will act as proof of divorce, giving you the right to an equal division of joint financial assets.

  • Close any joint credit cards
  • Update important estate planning documents like wills and trusts
  • Save an electronic copy of the divorce decree
  • For your life insurance policies and retirement accounts, update the information regarding beneficiary designations
  • If you have any vehicles, update their titles as needed
  • Update emergency contacts
  • Retitle or close any joint bank accounts that you had with your ex-spouse
  • After dividing your investment accounts, obtain a QDRO to split your 401k and 403b plans
  • Make necessary payments as per your divorce settlement, such as property settlement payment and child support payment

Ensure you perform these activities before or immediately following the termination of your marriage or domestic partnership.

Additional Uses for Your Divorce Decree

A divorce decree document officially finalizes your divorce process. However, this document may have some additional uses. These include the following:

A Roadmap to Post-Divorce Activities

A divorce decree outlines some orders you have to follow after your divorce. Therefore, it serves as a roadmap to the activities you partake in after the divorce. It outlines how you should carry out every activity as per the California laws concerning divorce and division of property.

For example, let’s say you’re financing a joint bank loan taken out before the divorce. A divorce decree outlines how you can do this based on the agreement you made during the divorce process. Should you run into any issues, you can always seek the guidance of the court.

A Document for Reference

Since this document contains detailed information about your divorce, you can reference it if any disagreements arise between you and your ex. A divorce decree may serve as a reference document in case of disagreements on issues like child support, parenting time, or alimony. Since it forms a binding legal agreement between the two of you, you need to ensure that you follow it to the letter.

An Enforcement Tool

Following a divorce, you can use a divorce decree to ensure that every party adheres to court orders by the judge. It can be used to enforce every instruction outlined in the marriage dissolution agreement. If your ex-spouse fails to adhere to some of the terms of the divorce decree, you can file a complaint with the court that gave the divorce judgment. The court will then make a follow-up and enforce the given orders.

Divorce Decree as Proof of Your Divorce

In some instances, you may need to prove to various institutions that you had a legal divorce. This may entail scenarios like seeking to update your vehicle details, closing a joint bank account, or making adjustments to your life insurance policies. In such cases, you need a copy of your divorce decree to prove that you terminated your marriage.

Getting Help with Your Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

We hope this article addressed any divorce certificate vs divorce decree questions you have. If you’ve recently undergone a divorce, are you still finding it a challenge to obtain either of these divorce documents? Your situation can easily change with the help of a legal document assistant.

At A People’s Choice, we promise to guide you on how to conveniently request a divorce decree document or a divorce certificate from either the court or the state department responsible. Given the quality of services we provide to our clients, you should make A People’s Choice your number one legal document assistant. Contact us today at 800-747-2780 to enjoy reliable and affordable services today.