"When does my Divorce Decree become effective? My fiancee and I are anxious to set a date for our wedding. And what happens after the Divorce Decree has been entered?"
A big -- sometimes very costly -- mistake people make is setting a firm wedding date before the divorce of one party becomes final. Often, divorces are settled with a written agreement or with an oral agreement that is dictated on the court record before a judge.
When a case is settled in court before a judge, often the court conducts an inquest, where one party testifies about the grounds for divorce. After the agreement is dictated on the record and the inquest conducted, the court will approve the settlement and "grant" the divorce. Even though the judge may say that the divorce is "granted," there is still the requirement that the court transcript be obtained and a formal judgment and other necessary documents prepared and submitted to the matrimonial clerk of the court for processing. Even in the best of circumstances, when the transcript is obtained and the papers prepared and submitted very fast, your attorney loses control of the papers once they reach the clerk. Many factors can affect how long it will take for the clerk to review the papers and submit them. The judge or his/her personal law clerk will then review the papers, and if they're acceptable, the judge signs the judgment. It is then returned to the matrimonial clerk to be sent to the County Clerk to be entered as any other judgment or order issued by the court.
In general, there are varying lengths of delay at each stage of this process. Once a divorce decree is entered, the parties may remarry: there is no waiting period in New York State.
Philip S. Milone is a matrimonial lawyer with 21 years of experience practicing in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, and Suffolk Counties.