Your divorce is finalized, and you’re ready to move on. As antsy as you may be to cut ties with your ex and the whole divorce process once and for all, there is one thing that’s important for you to always hang onto, and that’s your divorce decree. At the conclusion of your divorce, a judge will sign what’s known as a final judgment of divorce, or divorce decree. This is the official document that grants your divorce. In New Jersey, these divorce decrees have a gold seal sticker attached to them, and you may be asked for this “gold seal copy” for any of a number of reasons. It’s very important that you keep this document in a safe place, as you are likely to need it for more than one post-judgment issue. If you lose your divorce decree, you can obtain another copy, but it will come at a cost – and at the court’s leisure.
Here are some situations when you may need your divorce decree:
1. Resume your maiden name
If you want to resume your maiden name following a divorce, the divorce decree will be the document that allows you to do so. The judge will question you about your intentions in resuming your maiden name – fun things, like are you trying to avoid creditors or criminal charges? Ultimately, once a judge finds that it is an appropriate request, he or she will sign the divorce judgment that includes the full name you wish to resume, the last four digits of your social security number, and your birth date. Once you have the gold seal document, you can go to the Social Security office to begin the process of changing your name back. You will have to use this document not only at Social Security, but also the DMV, and to obtain an updated passport. You may also need it to change your name on your credit cards, although many times the credit card companies will accept a photocopy of the divorce decree.
2. Refinance a home
If you are fortunate enough to be able to keep the marital residence following a divorce, you will likely have to refinance the home in order to remove your former spouse’s name and obligation from the mortgage. In order to do so, most mortgage lenders will ask to see the divorce decree as proof that you are truly divorced and not trying to pull the wool over an unsuspecting spouse’s eyes. Your lender may also want to see your Marital Settlement Agreement to determine if any specific terms must be met prior to approving your loan.
If you decide to take the plunge and re-marry, you will need your divorce decree when you apply for your marriage license. The state will want to see that you are truly divorced and not merely separated from a former spouse before they agree to issue you a new marriage license. As bigamy (being legally married to more than one person at the same time) is illegal in New Jersey, it is a necessary step in the process of becoming married to someone else.
If you have questions about a divorce decree or the divorce process, call the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge to schedule a consultation.