Decree Absolute – What You Must Know
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No-Fault Divorce Is Now Divorce Law – The divorce law in England and Wales has changed to give way for a no-fault divorce. This means you no longer need to wait for a period of 2 years of separation or blame one party for the breakdown of your marriage. What’s more, it is no longer possible for your spouse to contest the divorce, allowing the divorce to proceed without friction or additional costs.
Doing your own divorce essential information
“Legal Terminology – Some of the terms used in the divorce process have been updated. For example, decree nisi is now called conditional order and decree absolute is now called final order.”
If you’re handling your own divorce, then the decree absolute form you’ll need is called; Form D36 – Notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute or conditional order to be made final.
The legal document confirms that your marriage has officially ended, which gives you the right to remarry again, should you wish to do so.
Keep the decree absolute in a safe place as you will need to show it to the relevant authorities if you want to remarry or to prove your marital status.
To apply for the final decree as part of the divorce process, you’ll need to submit the following details;
- Name of Court
- Case Number
- Name of Petitioner
- Name of Respondent
What is the decree nisi?
Before you can obtain a decree absolute (final order), you need to apply for a decree nisi.
The decree nisi is a document that essentially states that the Judge cannot see a reason why you can’t divorce in accordance with UK divorce law.
Normally, obtaining a decree nisi doesn’t require a court appearance because your spouse can no longer contest the divorce, however you might need to go to a court hearing to discuss your case if there are unforeseen issues.
To apply for the decree nisi, you need to fill in an application form that covers the reason for the divorce (grounds for divorce) and basic marriage/case details.
What is the decree absolute?
While the decree nisi is the initial proclamation by the court that a divorce can proceed, it is the decree absolute that officially brings the marriage to an end.
Obtaining a decree absolute is the final stage of the divorce process. The decree absolute is essentially a court order and legal document which officially terminates a marriage.
Once a decree absolute has been issued, the former spouses will no longer be married in the eyes of the law, and they are free to remarry if they so choose.
What is the difference between decree absolute and decree nisi?
The decree nisi is a document that shows the court is satisfied that you can divorce. Once it’s pronounced, you can make an application to the court regarding your financial settlement.
The decree absolute, on the other hand, is the final part of the divorce process in England and Wales and is the official dissolution of the marriage. Once granted, you’re officially divorced.
When can I apply for a decree absolute?
There are two important timings relating to the decree absolute. The first are the waiting periods and the second is the deadline.
Waiting Periods – Once the decree nisi (conditional order) is granted there is a waiting period in which any final objections to the divorce can be raised before it is finalised. It is necessary for the petitioner (the person who applied for the divorce) to wait for at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) from the date of the decree nisi pronouncement (the date the decree nisi was issued) before applying for the decree absolute.
What is the purpose of the waiting period?
The six weeks (and one day) delay between the decree nisi and the decree absolute is designed to allow the couple a ‘cooling-off’ period to decide if they still want to continue with their divorce.
This is also a good time to negotiate a financial settlement and prepare a financial consent order (although this only takes effect following the decree absolute).
What happens if I don’t apply for a decree absolute?
If the petitioner does not apply for the decree absolute at this time and the respondent (the petitioner’s spouse) wishes to do so instead they must wait a further three months (in addition to the initial 43 days ‘cooling-off’ period) before applying for the decree absolute (final order).
In the absence of an application for a decree absolute from either spouse, or any delay is not explained to the court, the decree nisi will elapse 12 months after it has been issued.
Is there a time limit for the decree absolute?
The second important timing is the deadline for applying for the decree absolute (subject to the waiting period).
Deadline – A divorcing couple must apply for a decree absolute before 12 months have elapsed since the decree nisi was issued, otherwise you may be asked to explain your reasons for the delay to the court.
What happens if the decree absolute deadline is missed?
Under certain circumstances, either divorcing party may need to delay the decree absolute. It will be necessary to explain the reasons for any delay in the application for a decree absolute to the court.
The court has the discretion to allow a late application – or it can simply reject the reasons for the delay which means the entire divorce process needs to be started again.
How do I apply for a decree absolute?
To apply for a decree absolute (final order), Form D36 needs to be completed and submitted to the court. This serves as an official notice of application for the decree nisi to be made absolute.
Once it has received the form, the court will check that the time limits have all been met and consider if there are any reasons the divorce should not go ahead.
Assuming everything is in order, a decree absolute certificate will be sent to each former spouse (or to their solicitors).
How long does it take for a decree absolute?
Once your application for a decree absolute has been received by the court, your divorce will typically become finalised within two to three weeks. After this period you will receive your decree absolute (final order) certificate, the official piece of paper that confirms you are officially divorced and free to remarry.
It’s important to keep your divorce certificate in a secure place as it is the legal document that proves your marital status. Should you decide to remarry you will need to produce it, a photocopy will not be accepted as proof.
If you need any assistance or free advice regarding the decree absolute, whether that is understanding what’s involved with the process or the financial settlement, we are on hand to help you; simply call us for free on 01793 384 029.
How can I get a copy of my decree absolute?
If you lose your decree absolute, you can get it replaced by contacting the court that issued the original decree. If you have the case number, the replacement will cost you £10, if you don’t, you will have to pay £45.
If you don’t remember the court that issued the original decree, you will need to get in touch with the Central Family Court, who can track who issued the decree and send you a replacement (the service will cost £65).
The Key Facts About The Decree Absolute
- What is a decree absolute? The decree absolute is a court-issued document (Form D36) that legally ends your marriage and concludes divorce proceedings in England and Wales.
- What happens if I don’t apply for the decree absolute? Nothing as such happens, however, leaving the application to your spouse can delay your divorce process by 3-4 months as your ex-partner will need to wait an additional 3 months before applying (this is in addition to the standard 6 weeks and 1 day).
- How long does it take to be granted? Once you have applied for the decree absolute it should take the court between 3-4 weeks to grant it for you.
- Financial settlement before or after the decree absolute? A financial settlement does not have to be reached before you can apply for a decree absolute to end your marriage. However, if you have not reached a financial agreement between you, then it is advisable to wait before applying for the decree absolute as your entitlement to certain assets of the marriage could be affected.
- Can the Respondent make the application? The respondent can only apply for the decree absolute after a period 3 months from when the standard 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) period has passed if the Petitioner hasn’t submitted an application within that time.
Should I apply for a financial order before applying for a decree absolute?
Financial orders (also known as consent orders) provide legal standing to any divorce settlement that has been agreed on between the divorcing couple.
It is possible to apply to the court for a financial order at any point after the decree nisi has been granted – but it will not come into force until the decree absolute has been issued.
Although a consent order can be made after the decree absolute, it is generally advisable to obtain one beforehand. There are several reasons for this, including:
- Certain assets cannot be transferred between former spouses once the divorce has been finalised (eg pensions), or transfers can become more difficult or costly.
- If one party remarries, they will lose their rights to make financial claims from their ex-spouse.
- If one ex-spouse dies during financial negotiations, their former spouse will not have any automatic claim to their estate if the decree absolute has already been issued.
Can a decree absolute be granted without a financial settlement?
Yes, the decree absolute will legally end your marriage and a financial settlement deals with the ending of all financial ties as husband and wife.
The divorce process and financial settlement are completely separate procedures and run alongside one another. Therefore, it’s possible to divorce without legally severing financial ties even though it’s not recommended.
We recommend to all of our clients to try and arrange the financial settlement at the same time as the divorce proceedings and before applying for a decree absolute for a few simple reasons;
- It reduces the chances of acrimony following the divorce.
- It allows both parties to move on with their lives at the same time without the worry of what’s happening to property, money and pensions, etc.
- Your entitlement to certain assets of the marriage could be affected.
When should I apply for a financial order?
Generally speaking, you should not apply for the decree absolute before making a financial application to the court to deal with any money and property, etc.
If you make the application before filing a financial consent order then it may affect your entitlement to certain marriage assets such as pension funds or trust funds, which can only be transferred to a spouse (which you will no longer be) if you receive the decree absolute.
A financial consent order can still be filed after the decree absolute, however, it is advisable to delay applying for the decree absolute if the consent order is still in progress and not yet approved.
Putting your agreed financial settlement into a legally binding court order is the only way to ensure that neither party can make future financial claims.
We can manage your entire divorce and financial consent order for you, making the whole process seamless & stress-free, whilst saving you £1000s in the process.
Our Managed Divorce and Financial Consent Order services start from just £499. The entire process will be managed by our family law solicitors and will result in you receiving a decree absolute with a legally binding consent order to separate financial ties following a divorce.
There are no time limits for obtaining a financial settlement after the decree absolute unless either party re-marries.