A divorce can be a drawn-out process for a variety of reasons. A divorce in California is not considered finalized until a court issues a divorce decree.

A divorce decree is an official document that resolves the major legal issues between a divorcing couple, such as child custody and property division. It is important to understand that each divorce decree is unique. However, there are certain common elements that divorce decrees often feature. This overview will cover some of the most noteworthy examples.

What a California Divorce Decree May Include

Common topics and issues addressed in a divorce decree may include the following:

A divorce decree will also typically include certain basic information pertaining to a divorce, such as the case number.

Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate: What’s the Difference?

Some assume that a divorce decree is the same thing as a divorce certificate. That is not the case.

The primary difference between a divorce decree and a divorce certificate is the amount of information each document includes. A divorce certificate does not cover the details of a divorce agreement between two ex-spouses. Instead, it merely confirms that two individuals were divorced. It also states where they were divorced and when their divorce was finalized.

Someone might seek a divorce certificate if they want to change their name. For example, someone may be required to provide a certified copy of a divorce certificate if they want to change the name on their driver’s license.

In California, a divorce record is another document pertaining to a divorce. This is the most thorough document of all those covered here. It contains the divorce decree, the divorce certificate, and all relevant files associated with the divorce process. 

You will usually be provided with a copy of a divorce record when a divorce is finalized. You may need to produce this document if your ex decides to challenge the divorce or any conditions of the divorce. A family law attorney can help you ensure this document is preserved appropriately.

Who Can Access a Divorce Decree?

California charges a fee for obtaining a copy of a divorce decree. Only the following parties may request a copy of a divorce decree:

  • A named party in the divorce
  • A parent or legal guardian of a named party in the divorce
  • A current spouse of a named party
  • A domestic partner of one of the named parties
  • A child of one of the named parties
  • A sibling of a named party
  • A grandparent of a named party
  • An authorized legal representative of a party named in the divorce

There is little chance that those outside of your close family and relatives will be able to obtain a copy of your divorce decree. Thus, if you wish to keep the details of your agreement confidential for any reason, odds are good you will have little trouble doing so.

The Function of a Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is a legally-binding document, like a contract. If your ex violates the terms of the divorce decree in any capacity, you can bring the matter to court. Additionally, your ex can also take legal action if you have violated any of the terms of your divorce decree.

This once again highlights the value of consulting with a skilled family law attorney when getting a divorce in California. They can help you understand the terms of your divorce decree and assist you if you believe your ex is violating the terms of the decree.

Just remember, this is merely a general overview. The unique circumstances surrounding a divorce will influence what is and is not included in a divorce decree.