Decree Absolute What You Must Know
Divorce in England and Wales can be a time-consuming, expensive, and often confusing process, even more so if you’re handling it yourself.
Knowing what the decree absolute is, what information you need to provide, and how and when to submit it to the court will make handling the divorce process more stress-free.
In this article, we explore the ins and outs of the decree absolute to help you file for divorce without stress.
What's covered on this page
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.
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.
Basic information – If you’re doing your own divorce
If you’re handling your own divorce, then the decree absolute form you’ll need is; Form D36 – Notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute form.
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, however, 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 but if your spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce, you might need to go to a court hearing to discuss your case.
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 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.
Normally, you apply for the decree absolute six weeks and one day after the decree nisi has been issued. Under exceptional circumstances, this period may be reduced.
When can I apply for a decree absolute?
Currently, under UK divorce law you can only apply for a decree absolute 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date of your decree nisi pronouncement.
Applying for the decree absolute earlier than this period of time may cause your application to be rejected by the court and cause unnecessary delays to your case.
You should seek to apply for the decree absolute within 12 months of getting the decree nisi otherwise you may be asked to explain your reasons for the delay to the court.
Applying for a decree absolute (or final order as it will soon be known as) may change when the no-fault divorce bill becomes law in Autumn 2021.
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.
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.
There are no time limits by which you are obliged to follow with regards to obtaining a financial settlement after the decree absolute unless either party re-marries.
You could decide to obtain a separation agreement until any children reach a certain age before legally dealing with your finances by the way of a financial settlement.
Our solicitors will take your financial agreement and draft the documentation to your individual circumstances before processing the application through the courts until it is granted by a Judge.
Length, loss and implications
Once the court has received your application, the divorce will normally be finalised within 2-3 weeks.
It’s important to place your decree absolute in a secure place as it is the legal document that proves your marital status and is necessary in case you decide to remarry.
A photocopy will not be enough if you’re giving notice you intend to marry again.
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.
To have your final decree certificate replaced, write to the court and request a copy of the document, including the case number, address and cheque or postal order payable to HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
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).