Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is the document you receive upon completion of the divorce process. It’s like your sheepskin for graduating from divorce court. It’s a piece of paper (or papers) with the court’s formal order which grants a termination of your marriage, and the terms and conditions thereof. If your case goes to trial, and a judge gives a judgment, the judgment is confirmed when the judge signs the decree.

What a Divorce Decree Covers

Most divorce decrees will stipulate what has been agreed or decided regarding the following five issues:

Most divorce decrees will cover the following five issues:


Alimony, or spousal support, is a legal obligation to pay a stipulated maintenance to your ex based on the premise that the spouses had an obligation to support each other during the marriage. Thus in many cases, the obligation to support may remain in place after the couple separate.

Property Division

After a divorce, property is divided in a way that either the two parties agree on, or the court determines is fair and equitable as per the laws of the state where the divorce takes place.

Child Custody

Custody of children is legal right of the parent to make decisions for a child, and the parent’s duty to take care of the child. It typically will be granted to one parent or split between both parents in a divorce settlement.


Visitation describes the rights and obligations of the parent who is not awarded custody to visit their children after a divorce.

Child Support

Child support, or child maintenance, is the ongoing obligation of a parent who doesn’t have custody of a child to pay for the child’s care and support. Generally this obligation will be in effect until the child’s 18th birthday, and is typically stipulated explicitly in a divorce decree.

How To Obtain a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

A final decree of divorce is archived in the courthouse where the divorce was decided, in the vital records office. In most situations, the court clerk or your attorney will mail you a copy of your final decree after your divorce, as the paperwork is processed. If you don’t get your divorce decree, or you need an extra copy of your divorce decree, you should write to the court clerk’s office and request a copy. You can also go to the court clerk’s office in person to request a copy.