What Does "Granted a Divorce" Mean?

By Teo Spengler

Even in no-fault divorce states where dissolving a marriage is a matter of personal choice, a judge must supervise your divorce proceedings and sign off on your divorce agreement. A divorce is not granted until the court enters a final divorce decree.

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A divorce not only dissolves the legal relationship between two adults, it can also divide property, allocate debt and radically rearrange the lives of minor children. For this reason, states have an interest in supervising the process. Although a couple can live apart without court approval, they cannot be granted a divorce unless they request a court to dissolve their marriage.

Steps in Divorce

A divorce begins and ends with paper. One spouse begins a divorce by filing a petition asking the court to end the marriage and serving these papers on the other spouse. If the spouses come to a fair and equitable agreement about about property, support and child custody issues, the court will approve the settlement agreement. If a couple cannot agree or if the judge determines that the agreement is unfair, the court will make the decisions after a divorce trial. During this process, the divorce is said to be pending. When the court issues the final divorce judgment and order, the divorce is said to be granted.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Do You Have to Wait 30 Days for a Decree of Divorce in Arkansas?
 

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What Does a Joint Petition Divorce Mean?

Some states allow couples to file joint petitions for divorce, but not all states. A joint petition divorce means the married couple petitions the court for a divorce together. They both sign and file the "joint petition for dissolution of marriage" as a simplified, uncontested or no-fault divorce. They generally agree to proceed with the divorce in a collaborative manner, without major disputes over fault, property division or child custody. Many couples file a settlement agreement with their petition. The judge must review and approve the joint petition and any attached settlement agreement before he enters a divorce decree, or final dissolution of marriage. Court rules on how to file a petition for divorce vary from state to state.

Can a Judge Make You Sign Divorce Papers?

In days gone by, both spouses had to agree to a divorce in order to end a marriage, but that is no longer the case. Either spouse acting alone may pursue a divorce, and a court may grant that divorce without the consent of the other party. Therefore, a judge has no reason to force a party to sign divorce papers.

How to File for Legal Separation in New Jersey

Dissolving a marriage is an emotionally draining process even when both spouses are on board. It may be easier to handle the break in stages, with separation serving as an interim step before moving straight to full-fledged divorce. Many states, such as California, have statutes that provide for legal separation and detail the responsibilities of both spouses and the courts during the process. Unfortunately, New Jersey doesn't make it so easy. While there is no legal separation statute in New Jersey, there are alternatives that allow separating spouses to set out their respective obligations and provide for court enforcement.

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