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What is a Divorce Decree?

An Indiana divorce can be a complex process. Depending on your situation, your divorce can resolve in mediation or agreement, end by default, or be granted during a trial or a hearing. At the end of each of these proceedings, you will receive a decree that finalizes your divorce. There are many documents you may receive while filing for divorce, but the divorce decree is the most important.

The Importance of a Divorce Decree

A divorce decree is a document that the court grants at the conclusion of your case. It serves as the final court judgement, meaning that your divorce is final on the day the court signs the decree. Only a court can issue a divorce decree.

This document will contain important information about the terms of your divorce, which may include the following.

  • Alimony and child support payment information
  • Custody and visitation arrangements
  • Asset and debt division

How Do Courts Grant a Divorce Decree?

In Indiana, there are three ways you can receive a divorce: by agreement, by default, or through a trial or hearing.

  • By default: To file for divorce in Indiana, you will need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You must then serve your spouse with a copy of the divorce filing. Indiana has a 60-day waiting period between filing the petition and issuing the divorce decree. If your spouse does not respond to the filing by the time the 60 days pass, the court will enter a judgement for divorce by default. Generally, the court will base the terms in your divorce decree on what you seek in your initial complaint.
  • By agreement: If your spouse does respond to the divorce filing, you can choose to create the terms of your divorce together or ask a court to decide. You and your spouse will enter mediation or negotiations and prepare an agreement. Then, you will prepare a final divorce decree and submit it to the court for approval. A divorce by agreement typically settles faster and provides you with greater control over the terms of the decree.


  • Through a trial or hearing: Your divorce case will proceed to trial if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce, or you choose not to engage in these processes. You and your spouse will attend a hearing and a judge will review evidence, such as testimony or bank statements. The judge will decide on the terms of the divorce decree, issuing the final judgement at the conclusion of the hearing.

Divorce Decrees versus Divorce Certificates

During your divorce, you may receive a document known as a divorce certificate. It is important to remember that a divorce certificate is not the same as a divorce decree. While a divorce decree is an official court judgement that dissolves your marriage, a divorce certificate is a state-issued document that Indiana uses for record-keeping purposes.

A divorce decree contains all of the terms of your divorce, from property division to how each of you will spend time with your children. On the other hand, a divorce certificate includes both of your names and the date and location of the divorce. It serves the same purpose as a marriage or birth certificate.

If you need assistance with your divorce, an Indianapolis divorce lawyer can help. Your attorney can guide you through each stage of the process, representing your best interests and working toward the most favorable divorce decree possible. Contact a divorce lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.