What Is a Correct Date of Divorce: the Date of Filing or Date of Judgment of the Divorce?

By Victoria McGrath

A divorce typically includes four important legal dates: the date of separation from the other spouse, the date of filing the petition at the courthouse, the date the judge signs the judgment, and the date the court clerk enters the judgment into the court record and provides notice of its entry to both parties. Even after all of these events take place, some states apply a waiting period before the divorce is final -- sometimes six months later.

Date of Separation

The date of separation refers to the date the spouses separated from each other with an intention to end the relationship. A physical separation is when one spouse moved out of the primary residence, out of the state or out of the country, with no plans to return. A separation of joint accounts and the division of marital assets also can indicate a specific date of physical separation. If both spouses temporarily remain in the shared residence, you can file for legal separation at the courthouse. The date of physical or legal separation helps the court determine when the marriage physically ended and financial contributions to community property terminated. For example, both spouses' incomes count as community property or shared income before the marriage ends. After it ends, a spouse keeps his own income as his separate property.

Date of Filing

The date of filing refers to the date one spouse or both spouses file a petition for divorce. If one spouse files for divorce and serves the other spouse with the divorce papers, the other spouse generally has 30 days to file a response. Otherwise, both spouses can file a joint petition together. The date of filing a petition for divorce shows the intention of one or both parties to divorce and initiates the divorce process. The date of filing potentially determines the cutoff date to acquire marital assets or debts. Marital assets and debts generally include the marital home, family car or other shared property acquired during the marriage. Even in uncontested divorces, where spouses file a joint petition with an attached settlement agreement and have no unresolved issues, the court must still approve the settlement agreement and order a dissolution of marriage. Divorce petitions require many additional steps after filing to finalize a divorce.

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Date of Judgment

In many cases, the court hears the case, approves any settlement agreement, resolves any contested matters, issues a court order, signs the judgment, enters the judgment and notifies both parties of the entry of judgment before the final dissolution of marriage takes place. The judge signs a judgment that contains the court order for the dissolution of marriage and sets out the terms of the divorce. The marriage terminates on the date the judge signs the judgment for dissolution of marriage. However, the divorce is not final until the court clerk enters the judgment into the court record. The time frame varies depending on the court's case load and type of divorce.

Date of Entry of Judgment

After the judge signs the judgment, the petitioner typically submits it to the court clerk to be processed. The clerk enters the judgement, supporting attachments and a notice of entry of judgment. The clerk date stamps the documents on the date she enters them. Then she mails a copy to each party. Court rules vary from state to state. In some states, the divorce takes effect once the parties receive notice of the entry of judgment. Other states have a waiting period of six months until the divorce becomes final.

Bifurcation of Divorce

In states that allow bifurcation of divorce, the court divides the divorce proceedings into two stages. The court first hears the divorce case and rules on the dissolution of marriage; it resolves other pertinent issues like property division and child custody on another date. Once the court orders the dissolution of marriage, the spouses are legally divorced and free to remarry.

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What Does Entry of Judgment in a Divorce in California Mean?


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Filing for Separation Vs. Divorce in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, courts do not recognize or grant couples legal separations. If spouses choose to divorce, the court enters a judgment of divorce that legally ends the marriage. Some couples decide not to divorce, but to live apart instead for religious reasons, personal preference or in an attempt to work out the marriage. In such cases, Massachusetts law allows the court to enter a separate support judgment that includes spousal support and certain other terms, while not actually giving legal status to the separation.

Las Vegas Divorce Laws

Las Vegas was once known as a divorce haven, due to Nevada's tolerant "no fault" divorce laws. Even today, Nevada requires just six weeks' residency before filing for divorce and therefore attracts a number of short-term residents for that purpose. The divorce procedure depends on whether the couple agrees on all relevant issues such as financial settlements and child custody. The Family Court at Clark County Court in Las Vegas deals with divorce cases for the area, applying the law under Chapter 125 of Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS).

Does Someone Have to Be at the Divorce Court Date in North Carolina?

In some respects, North Carolina is the easiest state in which to divorce. You don't have to divide your property or debts before filing, and it's not necessary to resolve issues of custody or support. The court can terminate your marriage without addressing any of these issues, but if you don't file a separate complaint to resolve property issues or alimony, you're barred from going back to court later to sort these things out. You don't have to appear in court to finalize the divorce itself, provided you have a lawyer.

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