A final decree of divorce in Minnesota is the court order that grants a termination of a marriage. It signals the end of your divorce case, whether it was amicable or required a lengthy legal fight.
Although your divorce lawyer and your spouse’s attorney may have agreed on the division of assets and custody, the divorce is not finalized until a judge signs the final decree.
The Final Decree of Divorce: What You Need to Know
A divorce decree is a legal document and judgment of a dissolution of marriage. It’s different from a divorce certificate.
A divorce certificate (officially called a Certificate of Dissolution) simply stipulates that you are divorced. You might use the certificate to prove you are officially divorced, such as if you decide to get remarried. In contrast, the decree spells out the divorce terms; it’s a contracted agreement between the divorcing spouses.
“When will my divorce be final?” is a nagging question many people ask their divorce lawyers. While a divorce isn’t final until the judge signs the decree, once you and your divorce lawyer are preparing to address this, you’re close to the end.
The Terms of the Divorce Decree
Divorce decrees cover alimony and spousal support, division of joint debts and property, and if the couple has children, custody, visitation, and child support.
Alimony may also be referred to as spousal maintenance and is an amount of money one spouse must pay the other. The amount of alimony, if any, depends on each partner’s role in the marriage and who earns the most money.
For example, if one partner stayed at home to raise children instead of pursuing a career, the working spouse may be required to provide for the nonworking spouse. Other factors in spousal support include:
- Prior standard of living
- Health and age
- Loss of earning or career impact
There are many mitigating factors that affect spousal support, and it’s not awarded in all divorces.
Division of Assets
If you and your spouse cannot agree on who receives what property, then a judge will determine which property is marital and assign a value to your combined assets. How the assets are split depends on the state.
Minnesota is not a community property state, so each spouse may have separate assets referred to as “non-marital property”. Property may be considered non-marital if a spouse owned it prior to the marriage; if a spouse inherited it at any time before or during the marriage; or if it was gifted directly to one of the spouses from a third party.
Dividing Marital Debt
Dividing debt is similar to dividing property. In Minnesota, each spouse is responsible for debts in their name. As a couple, you may decide to pay off all joint debt before filing for a divorce. However, some debts, like a mortgage, may be too large to pay off. The division of those financial responsibilities will be part of divorce negotiations.
It’s important that you consult a divorce lawyer experienced with the often-contentious negotiations in a divorce settlement.
Keep These Things in Mind Before Signing the Final Divorce Decree
Before signing your final divorce decree, your divorce lawyer will review the decree with you. They check to ensure that it’s accurate and addresses the agreements you and your soon-to-be-ex came to.
The decree should contain the right language to hold up to scrutiny and cover all contingencies to protect your legal interests. Although you may petition the court to modify the document at a later date, it’s best to ensure that everything is addressed at the outset.
Furthermore, you and your ex are bound by the terms of the divorce agreement and may be violating a court order for not following its terms. You and your lawyer should check the following:
- The wording of any division of pensions or retirement plans
- The Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which must follow IRS guidelines
- All phrases referring to child visitation and custody to ensure that there is no vague language
- Any missing agreements and provisions that should have been included
Your divorce lawyer will help you understand the legalese of the divorce decree and point out which parts address your specific areas of concern. Always pay close attention to any monetary values and your obligations for child visitation or custody.
Modifying a final divorce decree can be difficult, and appeals can be a long and drawn-out process. Furthermore, the courts have strict requirements for what may be modified in a divorce decree, and you and your lawyer will have the burden of proof that you meet these criteria.
Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer in Minnesota?
Don’t face a divorce alone. We can help. Johnson/Turner Legal is a firm of experienced divorce lawyers who can guide you through this difficult time. Contact us today for a confidential guidance call.