If the months or years leading up to your divorce were difficult or contentious, you might feel like you want to put it all behind you as fast as possible.
However, you and your spouse are still married in the eyes of the law until a judge signs your final divorce order (or decree) and officially dissolves your marriage. You may continue to share financial concerns, property ownership and many other legal obligations until the divorce is final.
As eager as you may be to sign the documents and move forward, there is one step you should not skip: reading the final order carefully.
Understand the contents of your decree
You may have arrived at certain agreements with your spouse or accepted the decisions of a Washington divorce court, but that does not always mean the final order will reflect your understanding of those decisions.
In general, a divorce decree will generally cover the following items:
- The division of your debts
- The division of your assets
- The amount and duration of alimony or spousal support
- Decisions regarding the legal and physical custody of your children
- Child support specifications
Of course, your situation is unique, and your decree may have other details that are important to you. Carefully reviewing the terms could spare you from receiving an unfavorable child or spousal support order or being responsible for debts you did not agree to pay.
Look out for legalese
Legal language is not always easy to understand. Your divorce decree might contain wording that is confusing or vague. There may be complicated requirements, like what you need to do to obtain your share of your spouse’s pension plan.
Unfortunately, there is always the chance that a mistake or omission during transcription changes something you agreed to during negotiations. Thus, careful review and legal advice may prevent you from signing a document that contains unacceptable terms.
Signing a divorce decree can be bittersweet. You may be ready to move forward or heartbroken over the loss you are facing. But signing any legal document without reading it is a mistake. Your divorce decree is no different.