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Decree Absolute – What you need to 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.

When going through a divorce there are many different documents that need to be complete, all at different times and each one must be completed correctly.

Before we go into the details about the decree absolute, it’s important to understand that being granted a decree absolute ends your marriage, it does not end your financial relationship.

You need to make a separate application to the court to deal with any money or property dealings.

What is a decree absolute?

The decree absolute is a court-issued document that legally ends your marriage and concludes divorce proceedings.

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 if you want to remarry or to prove your marital status.

To complete the decree absolute, 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?

You 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.

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.

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 procdures 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;

  1. It reduces the chances of acrimony following the divorce.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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. The Decree Absolute does not protect your finances in the future, it simply ends your marriage.

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 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.

What does form D36 look like?

Decree Absolute D36 Form Example

Decree Absolute D36 Form Example

Decree Absolute FAQ’s, Answered.

What happens if I don’t apply for a decree absolute?

Both you and your spouse can apply for the decree absolute.

However, leaving the application to your spouse will further delay your divorce process as your husband or wife will need to wait an additional 3 months before applying (this is in addition to the standard 6 weeks and 1 day).

If you don’t apply for the decree absolute when you are permitted to then your divorce procedure can last anywhere from 10-14 months.

How long after applying for decree absolute is it granted?

Once you have applied for the decree absolute it should take you between 3-4 weeks for the court to issue you and your spouse with your decree absolute.

However, this depends on the divorce centre you filed for divorce at as each centre has different case loads and it can take up to 10 weeks for you to be granted a decree absolute.

Financial settlement after decree absolute, is it possible?

Yes, you can make a financial application to the court after the decree absolute has been granted, however, it is advisable to delay applying for the decree absolute if the consent order is still in progress and not yet approved by the Judge. 

Also, doing so 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.

Can the respondent apply for the decree absolute?

The respondent can only apply for the decree absolute after 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.

Length, loss and implications

Once the court has received your decree absolute 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).

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