The divorce process is complicated because it involves financial entanglement and also because the couple has to follow specific legal and court procedures before their divorce can be signed off by a judge. Because of this, it’s important to avoid a DIY divorce and seek the assistance of a professional attorney who can navigate the process for you.
When you file for divorce, you will have to resolve several divorce-related issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, property, and debt division, what to do with the marital residence, etc. Once you have sorted through all of these issues, you will eventually receive the “divorce decree,” which is the required proof you’ll need to show that you are divorced.
The divorce decree is official evidence that your divorce is final. Generally, both spouses sign the divorce decree but it’s not final until it’s signed off by the judge – that’s when the divorce decree is effective.
Are Divorce Decrees Permanent?
Once a judge has signed off on a divorce decree, the divorce itself is official. The parties are free to remarry from that day forward. The terms outlined in the divorce are also considered “final,” but that does not mean they aren’t subject to change. It is very common for things to change in people’s lives after a divorce.
People move away, they become unemployed, the go back to school, they remarry, they get big promotions, or they become disabled or terminally ill – all of these life changes may warrant a modification to a divorce decree. If one of the former spouses desires to change child custody or spousal support, they have to petition the court for a modification for the change to be legally enforceable. If a modification is not made by the court, and one of the party’s deviates from the terms in the original divorce decree, it is considered a violation of the divorce decree and the non-breaching party can take their ex to court to enforce the court order. In serious cases, a party may even be held in contempt of court, fined, and jailed for violating the divorce decree.
Showing Proof of a Legal Divorce
It is very common for people to remarry, even after they’ve had a heavily-litigated divorce. Often, such people had been living in hollow, loveless marriages and they embrace the opportunity to love again, to have a second chance to get it right. As such, they’ll need to apply for a marriage license. But what if they were married before? Do they have to show proof of the divorce?
As we mentioned earlier, the divorce decree is proof that someone has obtained a divorce. If someone was married before, they cannot remarry unless their marriage was officially terminated by a court. To prove that the divorce has in fact gone through, to prove that divorce is legitimate, the divorced party will usually need to supply evidence of the divorce by producing their divorce decree.
“Why would I need to show proof that my divorce was finalized?” For starters, it’s illegal to get married while you’re still married to someone else. If you were to have this big, beautiful wedding while you’re technically still married to your first husband or wife, your second marriage would be legally invalid.
One Story of Bigamy
In 2017, patch.com ran a real-life story about a woman who was living in California. The wife didn’t know it, but the husband married her while he was still legally married to his first wife. His second wife only learned about the first marriage when the man’s new girlfriend started spreading rumors about it. So, the woman wanted to know what her rights were about taking legal actions against bigamy. She also wanted to know if her marriage was legal.
The woman was informed that her marriage was invalid because her husband was married to another woman while he was married to her. Under California law, the second wife was an unwitting victim of bigamy, which means her marriage was never legal or valid in the eyes of the law. While bigamy is illegal in California, it’s rare for it to be prosecuted.
The woman was informed by the author of the article that her marriage is void and that she needed to file an annulment right away. Since she attempted to get married in good faith, she was a “putative wife,” who could, therefore, seek one-half of all property the couple acquired during the course of the invalid marriage. What’s more, she was still entitled to seek spousal support if she needed it.
Even though we highly doubt that you or anyone you know is guilty of bigamy, we thought we’d share this interesting story!
Applying for a Marriage License
In California, people don’t have to be a resident of the state to get married here. However, to get married in California, neither party can be married to someone else.
“Both parties must appear in person and bring valid picture identification to the County Clerk’s Office to apply for a marriage license in California. Valid picture identification is one that contains a photograph, date of birth, and an issue and expiration date, such as a state-issued identification card, drivers license, passport, military identification, etc. Some counties may also require a copy of your birth certificate,” according to the California Department of Public Health.
If you are divorced, you will have to provide the specific date your divorce was finalized. Some counties also require the marriage license applicant to provide a copy of their final judgment, which is the divorce decree we mentioned above.