Is a Divorce Decree Supposed to Be Signed by the Petitioner & the Respondent?

By Jennifer F. Bender

Ending a marriage involves terminating a personal relationship as well as a legal one. To obtain a legal divorce, one spouse must file paperwork with the court where he resides requesting the dissolution of the marriage. This can be done with or without the involvement of the other spouse. Depending on the kind of divorce, the final divorce decree will either be signed by one or both parties.

Ending a marriage involves terminating a personal relationship as well as a legal one. To obtain a legal divorce, one spouse must file paperwork with the court where he resides requesting the dissolution of the marriage. This can be done with or without the involvement of the other spouse. Depending on the kind of divorce, the final divorce decree will either be signed by one or both parties.

Divorce Petition

The first document filed in a divorce is the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document states that one or both parties seek to dissolve the marriage; it then lists the legal grounds for the request. One or both parties may sign the petition. If only one party signs the petition, that party must serve the other party with the petition and a summons. If both parties sign the petition, the court deems the parties in agreement and no trial is scheduled. If one party serves a petition and the other party fails to respond within the state statutory time limits, the filing party can submit a signed divorce decree for the approval of the court.

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Divorce Decree

The divorce decree is the formal court order setting forth the terms and conditions ending the marriage. This document is also called a final decree. This document explains how the couple's property will be distributed at the end of their marriage. This includes the terms regarding property division, child support, alimony, child custody and visitation. It can also include any specific instructions pertaining to the raising of the children such as religious preference or location. The county courthouse records office permanently keeps the final divorce decree in its archives.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree on the terms for ending their marriage. The parties or their attorneys draft a marital settlement agreement, which sets forth the specific terms of the agreement in detail. This document becomes the divorce decree once it is approved and signed by the judge. Both parties must sign an uncontested divorce decree before submitting it to the divorce court. Once the judge approves and signs the divorce decree, the divorce is final.

Contested Divorce

Contested divorces occur when the two parties cannot agree on some or all of the issues regarding the finalization of their marriage. In these cases, the issues go to trial and a divorce judge hears evidence. Following the trial, the judge makes a decision and then issues a judgment. The parties then have to wait a period of time before the written divorce decree is issued and signed by the judge. Neither party signs the decree in this case.

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How to Apply for a Divorce in Washington State

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Divorce Procedures & Documents

Divorce law varies by state, but the general procedures are similar throughout the country. Should you decide to proceed on your own, referred to as acting "pro se," both state forms and information on divorce procedures are commonly available from local family law attorneys or online legal document providers. A simple divorce, one in which both parties agree, can often be handled without an attorney. However, if one party contests the divorce or property or custody disputes exist, you should consider consulting an attorney.

How to Contest an Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi

When spouses not only agree to be divorced, but also on the reason for the divorce and terms of the divorce, they can file an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is typically cheaper and quicker than a contested divorce, which is one in which the spouses dispute some or all of the issues of the divorce. However, Mississippi law is strict when it comes to divorce and, depending on the circumstances, a spouse can prevent the completion of a no-fault divorce by contesting it.

Procedures for Divorce by Mutual Consent

The quickest and easiest divorce is a divorce where both parties agree to everything before ever setting foot inside a courtroom, i.e. a divorce by mutual consent. When there is nothing to fight about, the court only needs to sign off on the agreement the parties already made regarding property division, spousal and child support, and child visitation.

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