Judgment of Dissolution:
The goal of the divorce process is to end up with a “Judgment of Dissolution” which we will also refer to as a “divorce judgment”. If you are seeking a “Judgment of Legal Separation” instead of a divorce, all of the procedures set forth below for a divorce judgment are essentially the same, you will just check a few different boxes on the judgment form. The divorce judgment will terminate your marital status and restore you to the status of being a “single” person. The divorce judgment will also include the court orders that divide your property, divide your debts, spell out child custody arrangements, set child support, and set spousal support.
The following information about how to draft a Judgment of Dissolution is geared towards cases in which you were able to negotiate a settlement of all issues with your spouse. The following information applies to “uncontested” divorce cases, including “default with an agreement” cases. If you have a “true default” case where your spouse refused to participate in the divorce process, skip ahead to the section of the website entitled, “True Default Case”. If you have a “contested” divorce case because you and your spouse were not able to reach a settlement on some or all of the issues, skip ahead to the section of the website entitled, “Contested Case”.
Judicial Council forms approach vs. Marital Settlement Agreement approach:
There are two different ways to draft your divorce judgment.
One way is to use a collection of Judicial Council forms. There is a Judicial Council form you can use to set forth your agreement about the division of your property and debts. There are various Judicial Council forms you can use to set forth your agreement regarding child custody. There are various Judicial Council forms you can use to set forth your agreement regarding child support. There is also a Judicial Council form to set forth your agreement regarding spousal support. If you decide to use the Judicial Council forms approach, you essentially fill out all the forms you need and then attach those forms to another two page Judicial Council form known as the “Judgment” form (FL-180). You will then have a divorce judgment that you can submit to the court for a judge to sign. In the next section of this website, we will go through each of the various Judicial Council forms you will need to fill out for your divorce judgment. We will explain how to use all the forms and create a divorce judgment for free. All the Judicial Council forms you will need for your divorce judgment can be found in our Court Forms Database. You can fill out each form and print it for free.
The second way to draft your divorce judgment is to use a Marital Settlement Agreement. A Marital Settlement Agreement takes the place of the various Judicial Council forms (except the two page FL-180 “Judgment” form). A Marital Settlement Agreement is simply a written contract that spells out the terms of the settlement agreement you have made with your spouse. The Marital Settlement Agreement will contain provisions about how your assets and debts are to be divided, provisions about spousal support, and, if you have minor children, provisions about child custody and child support. The Marital Settlement Agreement will be attached to your FL-180 “Judgment” form and then you will submit your Judgment to the court for a judge to sign.
Should you use the Judicial Council forms approach or the Marital Settlement Agreement approach when it comes to your divorce judgment? Either approach will work. The main problem with the Judicial Council forms is that the forms make it difficult to set forth detailed provisions or unique provisions you may want in your settlement agreement. The Judicial Council forms work well for simple cases, with simple agreements. However, if you want to do anything that is unique or somewhat detailed or complicated, the Judicial Council forms can be difficult to use. You will quickly understand the problem if you start filling out the Judicial Council forms. For example, you may want your settlement agreement to include a detailed agreement regarding the disposition of the family home, disposition of a business, spousal support, life insurance, or any number of other issues. The Judicial Council forms are not set up to easily handle these kinds of detailed agreements. You can get the job done if you use multiple typed up attachments to the Judicial Council forms, but then the process becomes cumbersome. With a Marital Settlement Agreement, you are not limited to an agreement that consists of boxes on forms that you check and small blank spaces on the forms in which you try to cram the terms of your settlement agreement. With a Marital Settlement Agreement, you can write the exact agreement you want. You can include all the unique provisions you want, in as much detail as you want, and exclude provisions you don’t want in your agreement.