After the divorce decree. Am I free ?

When the divorce decree is finally done there will be some relief and a feeling of happiness in some but remember, once the decree is final, you and your spouse are legally obligated to follow its terms. A divorce decree is a legally binding document, and its best to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can review your divorce decree in detail and provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. They can also help identify any potential issues or ambiguities and advise you on how to address them. The Judicial Branch of California provides a guide called “After your divorce is final in California”

It’s crucial for you to fully understand its contents and address any concerns before signing or finalizing it. Here are some things to look for:

Child custody and visitation:

Review the terms of custody and visitation arrangements to ensure they align with your expectations and the best interests of your children. Pay attention to any potential limitations or restrictions on your rights as a parent. Be very careful. In a few cases an unscrupulous attorney and heir client can easily ‘reduce’ your custodial rights by ‘forgetting’ to include all the visitation orders into the final divorce decree.

Child support and alimony:

Verify that the agreed-upon child support and alimony amounts are clearly stated and consider the long-term implications. Ensure that payment schedules, adjustments, and termination conditions are properly outlined.

Property division:

Ensure that the division of assets and debts is accurately reflected in the decree. Check for any discrepancies or omissions that could affect your financial well-being. Review this in detail and check each section to avoid irreparable damage later.

Retirement accounts and pensions:

If retirement accounts or pensions are part of the division of assets, ensure that the specifics, such as the division percentages and methods, are correctly documented. Seek professional advice if necessary to understand the potential tax and financial implications.

Health insurance and medical expenses:

Confirm how health insurance coverage for yourself and your children will be handled post-divorce. Determine how medical expenses, including insurance premiums, deductibles, and uninsured costs, will be allocated.

Tax considerations:

Be aware of any tax-related implications resulting from the divorce, such as filing status, dependency exemptions, and the division of tax obligations. Consider consulting with a tax professional for guidance.

Future modifications:

Understand the procedures and criteria for modifying the divorce decree in the future if circumstances change. Familiarize yourself with the requirements for requesting modifications related to child custody, support, or other important matters.

Contingencies and enforcement mechanisms:

Ensure that the decree includes provisions for enforcing its terms and resolving disputes, such as mediation or arbitration clauses. Verify that the document covers potential contingencies, such as the sale of property or changes in employment.

Legal language and terminology:

Carefully review the language used in the decree to ensure that it accurately reflects your intentions and agreements. Seek clarification or professional advice if you are uncertain about any legal terms or provisions.

Once the judge signs your divorce decree, it is filed with the court clerk and becomes public record and anyone can obtain a copy of it from the court clerk’s office.


Be very careful before signing the divorce decree as your spouse and an ethically challenged attorney can easily ‘reduce’ your rights by ‘forgetting’ to include within the final divorce decree, all the documents and orders that were a part of your case. If that happens, its best to raise it as an issue and withhold signature until it is addressed. A detail oriented and responsible attorney on your side can be a huge asset to ensure the decree correctly reflects the agreement.

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