What Does the Word Divested Mean in a Divorce Decree?

by Michael Butler

"Divested" is a legal term that means relinquished or dispossessed. The term usually refers to a surrender or forfeiture of property or authority. Divested might appear in a divorce decree in several areas. However, it normally appears only in reference to a court relinquishing jurisdiction or in reference to the property of the parties.

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Legal orders often contain a brief section that outlines the procedural history of the case. If a previous court relinquished its jurisdiction in the divorce, the court that issued the divorce decree might mention that in the decree. For example, if both parties filed for divorce in different courts, the two judges will communicate to decide which court should hear the case. The court that subsequently heard the case might write that the other court "divested its jurisdiction" in the divorce decree.

Property Decisions

Courts are required to divide the property of the parties in a divorce case. Even when the parties agree to a settlement, the property division becomes an order of the court. Courts either recite the property division in the divorce decree or explicitly incorporate another document that states the division of property in the decree. A court can use the term "divested" in making property orders. For example, if the court decides to grant the family home to the person who filed for divorce, the court might write "Respondent is hereby divested of any right, title, claim or interest in the property located at 12 Redwood Lane."

Previously Lost Property

In contentious divorces, parties sometimes argue about the property they used to have. For example, if a couple used to be wealthy and has recently lost that wealth, they might argue over which one of them is responsible for that loss. This is usually in an effort to have the court grant a blameless party more of the property that is left. If it is relevant to the decision in the case, the court might use "divested" in the order to find that one or both of the parties relinquished the property. For example, the court might write, "Petitioner divested the stocks in XYZ company."

Possible Divestments

The rights that people have in property can get complicated, especially if the right is a possible, future right. If one of the parties has an interest in property that can be lost, that right can be called "subject to divestiture." For example, if the wife will inherit a piece of property only if her sister does not have children, the wife's interest is subject to divestiture. If it is relevant to the property division in the divorce, the court may write that the wife has the interest "subject to be divested."