In the state of Texas, 11% of marriages end in divorce. Even when a divorce is amicable, there are still myriad legalities that need to be addressed. So do you know what part the divorce decree plays in the process?

Covering everything from child support to property division, this document is essential to protect your interests. Read on as we give our essential guide to a divorce decree.

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a formal court order. It is issued at the end of divorce proceedings. The aim of it is to resolve all issues, relating to matters such as child custody and property division.

All parties included must adhere to the divorce decree. You may hear it mentioned under its other names of Final Judgement or Judgement of Divorce.

How Is the Decree Enforced?

When a violation of the decree occurs, a filing of the motion to enforce the divorce decree occurs. In Texas, enforcements need forwarding within two years of the date the court signed the decree.

In some cases, decrees may divide property that did not exist at the time of the divorce. This two-year period then begins when the right to the property starts. For example, if property sells in the future, the contesting partner would have two years from the date of the sale to file a motion.

Understanding the Decree

A decree will break down into a number of areas, their inclusion depending on the individual circumstances. The most common ones you need to understand are below.


Alimony is more commonly known as spousal support or maintenance. It is the amount one person in the marriage has to pay the other.

There is a wide range of factors that can influence this, generally relating to who earned the most money during the marriage. This can change depending on age, the standard of living, and health.

Division of Property

This decides how the assets in your marriage are divided. It begins with the judge working out which assets are marital and non-marital. From there, they will have to work out a combined value of all assets involved in the marital section.

After this, the division of property depends on state laws. States can be broadly categorized into two camps.

Community property states will take the view that all property and income accrued during the marriage should be equally split. In this case, it is likely a 50/50 split will occur of all asset values in the marriage, regardless of who bought or financed it.

Equitable distribution is the most common method in most states. Assets will go to which member of the marriage bought or obtained them.

Division of Debt

Before divorcing, the parties involved will have the option to pay off any debt. If the debt is too large to be paid before the divorce, then you are able to decide during negotiations. The court will divide the remaining debt based on who took out the debt and who had the most benefit from it.

What to Check Before Signing

You need to check your decree thoroughly for a number of reasons before signing and make sure it is checked by a divorce lawyer. You may find you need to appeal or modify the document at a later date. This is hard to do, so it is imperative you understand the complex legal terminology and language used at this point.

Pay particular attention and understand any sections relating to child custody. The terms used here may sometimes be vague, particularly if they describe language that talks about what is in the child’s best interest. This can result in misunderstandings later down the line if you and your partner have different ideas about what it means.

You should also look at anything relating to pension funds. They have specific terminology, as they are reliant on third parties interpreting benefits. Other than this, check any other agreements and provisions you may want to include.

Making Modifications

Modification to a decree is possible but extremely difficult. This is why it is vital you check the decree before signing and make amendments at this stage.

Changes in your decree would require an appeal. You will have to prove that your request meets very specific criteria. Usually, it would only be acceptable if you felt you signed under duress or were pressured into the circumstances.

How to Get a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

Official copies of the divorce decree can be attained from the county clerk’s office or court clerk’s office, depending on the state. Only those who were involved in the divorce decree or their legal representation can pick them up.

What Is a Divorce Certificate?

The divorce decree and certificate can often get confused. Both are completely different documents.

The certificate is not prepared by the court. It is issued by the State Health Department or Bureau of Vital Statistics.

This certificate will contain the name of both spouses, with the date and place of the divorce. Should you need any proof you are no longer married, this is the document you need to provide. Not all states will issue a divorce certificate, though you can get one in the state of Texas, where all divorce proceedings are public.

Once you have the certificate, you can use it for several reasons. Notably, a name change, though travel visas, inheritance, passports, and remarriage are other instances they may be required.

Arranging Your Divorce Decree

Now you know the purpose of a divorce decree, you can begin proceedings. Make sure you have great representation to protect your interests. Signing a less than favorable decree can cause problems later down the line.

Texas Divorce Lawyers should be your first stop. We can arrange everything from child custody to spousal support. Contact us to discuss your needs, and let us represent you.