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Finishing the Case: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Decree and Judgment

What are these and why do I need them?

Your case is not finished until the judge signs the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and the Decree and Judgment. These are the documents necessary to actually get you divorced, distribute the property and debt or establish a final custody order.

Who writes them up?

Sometimes the judge will create these documents. In most instances, however, the judge will ask one of the parties to submit them. If a lawyer is involved in the case, the judge will often assign this task to the lawyer.

What happens if the other side writes them up and they say something different than I expected?

Once the proposed documents have been submitted and served on you, you have 5 days to object. See Civil Rule 78(b). If it doesn't seem like the documents says what you thought was going to be the final decision of the court, and you think the document should be changed, you must file objections. You may use the CR 78 Objections form, SHC-1635 (Word | PDF).

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Can I easily change a final order?

No. Once the judge signs the final paperwork - usually a decree, findings of fact and conclusions of law, possibly an order or a judgment - the decision is final and binding. The final documents outline the parties’ rights and responsibilities on the issues that they address.

You can only modify an order in very specific situations.

For custody, you need to show that there has been a change in circumstances. This means something has happened so that the old parenting plan is no longer in the child(ren)'s best interests. To learn more about modifying a custody order, see the modification section.

For child support, there needs to be:

For property and debt division, these orders can rarely be changed once they are final. It is very difficult to change the outcome of property and debt decisions. Once the court order divides and distributes property and debt to a specific person, that person may take action that is very hard or impossible to reverse. For example, if a husband is awarded the house from the marriage, he may sell the house. At that point, it would be impossible to get the house back if the wife thinks something different should have happened with the house. Also, the court could order one spouse to receive a sum of money from the marriage. The receiving spouse may spend that money and not be able to get it back.

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Forms

Please use the forms for the kind of case you have - each form is different and will be rejected by the court if you file the wrong one.

NOTE: You do not prepare these forms for a dissolution case; the judge will take care of it.

Custody Case (unmarried parents with children)

Divorce with Children & Property (Long, i.e. property or debt to be divided by the court)

Divorce with Children & Property (Short, i.e. no property or debt to be divided by the court)

Divorce with Property But No Children (Long, i.e. property or debt to be divided by the court)

Divorce with Property But No Children (Short, i.e. no property or debt to be divided by the court)

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Rev. 6 June 2012
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