Signing the Final Divorce Documents

By Bruce Friedman

Clients frequently ask what documents they may need to sign as a part of their settlement of their divorce. What they sign will depend on whether children are involved as well as the nature and complexity of the property and debt, and the terms of settlement. Here are typical documents that may need to be prepared by the attorneys and signed by you:

  • Judgment: This document will, when approved by the court, become the court’s judgment of dissolution of marriage and will be signed by the judge and, depending upon the practice in a particular circuit, the parties, their attorneys, and the guardian ad litem (if one has been appointed to represent the children). It does not need to be notarized. If the circuit in question does not have a pre-printed form, the attorneys will need to draft a judgment that will meet the requirements of the particular judge. The judge can always change the judgment even if the parties agree as to the form.
  • Affidavit: Each party signs an affidavit before a notary public agreeing that the various other documents are accurate and have their consent. This is a simplified substitute for actually testifying before a judge about the terms of the settlement documents. Some judges still require live testimony, in which case, an affidavit will not be necessary, but a court appearance will.
  • Parenting Plan: Each party, their attorneys, the guardian ad litem (if appointed in the case), and the judge will sign this. It does not need to be notarized.
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Order(s): Commonly referred to as “QDROs” (pronounced “quadros”), these documents are necessary to divide or transfer a portion of certain types of retirement plans, and will usually be signed by the parties, their attorneys, and the judge. They are frequently not completed until after the divorce has been concluded. Because each retirement plan is different, these orders are written to conform to the particular plan in question. Signing does not mean the transfer of the retirement plan, or a portion of it, will automatically occur, but the document is necessary to begin the process with the Employer’s Plan.
  • Deeds: These documents, used to transfer real estate, may be signed by one or both parties before a notary public. After signature they will need to be recorded with the recorder of deeds to be effective.
    Gift Affidavits: These may be signed by one or each party as part of the process of transferring motor vehicle titles. The gift affidavit tells the department of revenue, when filed, no money is being paid and thus avoids the payment of sales taxes.
  • Other Documents: There can be any number of other documents that may be needed to complete the transfer of ownership of business entities, including partnerships, corporations, LLCs, etc., and other documents to accomplish the terms of settlement.
  • Satisfactions of Judgment: When a party has received full payment of money or property due them under the judgment they need to sign a satisfaction of judgment so that “liens” do not cloud the title to real estate. They will also avoid later disputes about non-payment. Sometimes it can take many months or even years for these to be completed due to the timing of settlement payments.

Disclaimer

Bruce E. Friedman

Bruce E. Friedman

With over 30 years of practice, St. Louis family law attorney Bruce E. Friedman has provided guidance in complex financial issues including high net worth individuals, business valuations, and maintenance. Additionally, Mr. Friedman provides other services such as prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and domestic partnership agreements.