Divorce Decree Delays

Divorce Decrees

​Long story short: You file for divorce. After a long and acrimonious battle you go to court and your attorneys finally negotiate a settlement agreement- not the perfect agreement, but one that both you and your spouse can live with. The terms of the settlement agreement are stated by one of the attorneys, in general terms, in open court, on the record. After being sworn in and under oath, the Judge asks both parties whether you agree with and understand the settlement terms put on the record. You say yes. Your spouse says yes. The Judge indicates that the terms of the settlement agreement is accepted by the Court and declares that you will be divorced upon entry of a final written Decree of Divorce. The written Divorce Decree is to memorialize the settlement agreement put on the record. One of the attorneys is ordered to prepare the Decree. (Judges in this jurisdiction rarely prepare their own orders after a contested hearing). The other attorney will have an opportunity to review and comment before it is submitted to the Court for entry. That was weeks ago, yet you still are not technically divorced. You ask your attorney what the hold up is about. He tells you that the other attorney was ordered to prepare the Decree but hasn’t done it yet. You say, “But it has been weeks and there is an order from the Court- doesn’t the other attorney have to do it expeditiously?” Your attorney then informs you that there are no rules governing how long after a hearing the attorney has to prepare the proposed Decree. Your attorney then tells you that unless you want to incur more attorney fees in having your attorney prepare the Decree, you need to just sit tight and wait for the other attorney to get his act together. You might spend weeks waiting until finally you receive the proposed Decree from the other side. Your attorney may have some issues with the language and will request modifications. This back and forth over the appropriate language may add several more weeks to the delay and you are still not divorced. As a practitioner, I try to get proposed Decrees and Orders drafted and off to the other side within one week of the hearing. There are few things that bother me more than leaving a client waiting in “legal purgatory” when their case should be finished and they should be free to move on with their life. Not all attorneys make this a priority and it has become a major pet peeve of mine. The rules should be changed and attorneys should be required to get the proposed orders done within 10 days of the hearing or face sanctions.

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