When coming to the end of your divorce proceedings, you will probably begin to breathe a sigh of relief to know when the process is complete and you’re holding your final decree of divorce in hand. That document is the physical symbol of closure to your relationship with your now ex-spouse and that you’ve made it to the end of your divorce case.
However, for many this day feels far away and nearly impossible to reach because you haven’t yet filed for divorce.
If you fall under the category as not having filed for divorce yet, then depending upon your situation you may want to file an agreed divorce or a contested divorce if you don’t agree to terms with your spouse.
Regardless of how long your Texas divorce proceedings take, there’s a relief to be found when the process is complete and you have a final decree of divorce in hand. It’s important to remember what it is you’re holding as it is a binding official court order to all parties and any violation of the divorce decree is a violation of law. Any party affected by noncompliance has options to enforce the divorce decree, while the breaching party could face serious consequences for defying the court.
As such, the keys to understanding the final divorce decree are knowing what appears in the order and how to enforce it if necessary. While you can trust a Texas divorce lawyer to handle the essential legal tasks, some background information is useful.
Topics Covered By Your Texas Final Divorce Decree
Every case is different, so the specifics of the court order will vary considerably. Plus, there are different paths that parties will take to arrive at the content contained in the final divorce decree. Some couples can agree on most or all divorce issues, while others must go through mediation or a court hearing to resolve disputes.
Your final divorce decree may include provisions on:
- Identification of each party’s separate property and debts, which will remain that person’s assets and obligations post-divorce;
- Identification of community property acquired by the parties during their marriage, along with details on how assets are to be equitably distributed between them;
- The specifics of your parenting plan if you have minor children, including conservatorship, possession, and access – terms Texas uses to refer to custody and visitation;
- Child support, including whether the amount goes by statutory guidelines or is based upon other factors;
- Spousal maintenance, if the court determines that a lower earning spouse will face financial challenges; and,
- A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) related to distributions of funds from retirement plans, if applicable.
When one party cannot or will not abide by the terms of the final divorce decree, the other may need to consider strategies for enforcement. The process for doing so is filing a motion for enforcement, through which you can pursue various objectives:
- Delivery of Assets: The final divorce decree acts as a muniment, i.e., a document representing a transfer of property. However, you may need to go to court to effect the physical act of handing the asset over.
- Money Judgement: When an asset has been significantly depleted or no longer exists, a motion for enforcement can be used to obtain a money judgment. The breaching party will be required to pay the fair market value.
- Attorneys’ Fees: A non-breaching party may incur substantial legal costs through enforcement action, so a judge may require the breaching party to pay attorneys’ fees.
- Contempt: A court has the power to punish someone for defying its order, and the penalties are typically related to the nature of the breach. The judge could modify custody or visitation for violation of parenting plan or levy a fine, but jail time is possible for extreme cases.
Get Legal Help From A Texas Divorce Attorney
This overview may give you a better understanding of the purpose and effect of a final divorce decree, but it is wise to rely on skilled legal counsel for assistance. Before the order is entered, you want to make sure your rights are protected; after the judge signs it, you must comply with the provisions and take action if your ex does not. For more information, contact the Dallas Fort Worth, TX offices of Marx, Altman & Johnson. We can set up a consultation to explain the divorce process and role of the final divorce decree.