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Conditional Order In Divorce - What Is It & What Do I Need To Know?

Getting a divorce in England and Wales was made simpler with the introduction of no-fault divorce.

However, you still need to understand how to navigate the process and complete specific stages, e.g. Conditional Order.

In this guide, our divorce experts outline the steps you need to take to obtain a conditional order and final order.

conditional order divorce stage

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    Please note that the following article is a comprehensive guide to conditional orders in UK divorce law. It provides a detailed overview of the divorce process, the changes brought about by the introduction of no-fault divorce, and the specific steps involved in obtaining a conditional order and final order. The information provided is for general guidance purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

    A Comprehensive Guide to Conditional Orders in UK Divorce Law

    As of 6 April 2022, significant changes have been made to divorce law in the UK, introducing a no-fault divorce system.

    One of the key aspects of this new system is the introduction of the term “Conditional Order,” which replaces the previous term “Decree Nisi.”

    The Conditional Order represents the middle stage of the divorce process and confirms that you are entitled to a divorce under English and Welsh law.

    In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of obtaining a Conditional Order, the differences between the new system and the previous one, and the steps involved in finalising your divorce with a Final Order.

    Everything You Need To Know…

    1.What is a conditional order?

    A Conditional Order is a legal document that confirms your entitlement to divorce under English and Welsh law.

    It represents the middle stage of the divorce process, falling between the initial divorce application and the final stage of obtaining a Final Order.

    2.Is a Conditional Order different to Decree Nisi?

    In the previous divorce system, the term “Decree Nisi” was used to refer to the middle stage of the divorce process. The main difference between the Conditional Order and the Decree Nisi is the relevant timescales.

    Previously, a Decree Nisi could be applied for as soon as the respondent acknowledged the divorce application. However, under the new system, a Conditional Order cannot be applied for until 20 weeks after the divorce application has been issued.

    This “cooling-off” period allows couples to reflect on their decision to divorce and ensures they are making the right choice.

    3.Can you change your mind after the Conditional Order?

    It is important to note that even after a Conditional Order is granted, the divorce is not yet finalised. If both parties agree, the divorce can still be withdrawn, and the marriage or civil partnership will not be legally over until the Final Order is granted.

    4.When can I apply for a Conditional Order?

    After filing a divorce application and waiting for a period of 20-weeks, you can then apply for the conditional order.

    5.My spouse has applied for the Conditional Order in our divorce, now what happens?

    After receiving the conditional order in a divorce in the UK, it’s usually best not to apply for the final order until the finances have been sorted out.

    There is a mandatory waiting period of six weeks and a day after the conditional order before you can apply for the final order. This waiting period allows both parties to finalise financial arrangements before the divorce is made official.

    Many couples make the mistake of rushing this part of the divorce process and apply for the Final Order instantly before sorting out important aspects such as finances and children arrangements.

    6.How long does a Conditional Order take?

    It now takes a minimum of 20-weeks to reach the conditional order stage. There is then a 6-week waiting period between the Conditional Order and Final Order.

    Once you apply for the Final Order after this waiting period, the court will typically grant the divorce within 24 hours, providing they see no reason not to.

    Overall, the divorce process is quite slow and boring for most people and since no-fault divorce was introduced it’s now taking even longer.

    7.Why do you have to wait 20 weeks for a conditional order divorce?

    In the UK, there is a mandatory waiting period of 20 weeks for a conditional order to allow for reflection and the opportunity for reconciliation.

    This measure was introduced by the Government because they didn’t want to create a ‘quickie divorce’ scenario and undermine the meaning of marriage.

    This waiting period is intended to ensure that both parties have had sufficient time to consider the decision and to potentially resolve any outstanding issues before the divorce is finalised.

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    Applying for a Conditional Order

    Step 1: Submitting the Divorce Application

    The first step in obtaining a Conditional Order is to submit the divorce application to the court. This can be done either as a sole applicant or jointly with your spouse.

    The court will check the application and issue the divorce application if satisfied with the information provided.

    Step 2: Waiting for the 20-week Reflection Period

    Once the divorce application has been issued, a mandatory 20-week reflection period begins. This period allows both parties to adjust to the news of the divorce and make any necessary financial or child arrangements.

    Step 3: Applying for the Conditional Order

    After the 20-week reflection period, you can apply for a Conditional Order. This application can be made by either the sole applicant or both joint applicants.

    The court will review the application and, if satisfied, grant a certificate of entitlement to the Conditional Order and set a hearing date for pronouncement.

    Step 4: Granting of the Conditional Order

    At the hearing, a judge will review the application and pronounce the Conditional Order. It is important to note that neither you nor your spouse are expected to attend the hearing unless you wish to object to any of the orders being made.

    Once the Conditional Order is granted, the court will send a copy to both parties.

    What Happens After a Conditional Order is Granted?

    Step 5: Applying for a Consent Order (Optional)
    After the granting of the Conditional Order, you have the option to apply for a consent order. A consent order is a legally binding document that finalises financial arrangements and other matters related to the divorce.

    While not mandatory, a consent order provides certainty and ensures that the financial split is legally recognised.

    Step 6: Final Order – Decree Absolute

    The Final Order, previously known as the Decree Absolute, is the final stage of the divorce process. You can apply for a Final Order 6 weeks and 1 day after the Conditional Order has been granted.

    Once the court receives your application, they will check the time limits and any other reasons that may prevent the granting of the Final Order. If satisfied, a judge will pronounce the Final Order, and the court will send a copy to both parties.

    Consent Order and Financial Arrangements

    While the no-fault divorce system aims to streamline the divorce process, financial arrangements and child custody matters still need to be resolved.

    To ensure that these arrangements are legally binding, it is advisable to apply for a consent order. This can be done as soon as the Conditional Order is granted.

    Simple questions, expert answers

    Q: Do you have to pay for a conditional order?

    Not specifically, the court fees for divorce (£593) covers the entire application, therefore, meaning you do not need to pay any additional fees to apply for a conditional order.

    Q: Can a respondent apply for a conditional order?

    The Respondent in divorce can apply for the Final Order three months after the expiry of the 6-week waiting period if the sole applicant fails to apply.

    Need help obtaining a Conditional Order?

    The introduction of no-fault divorce in the UK has brought about significant changes to the divorce process. Understanding the steps involved in obtaining a Conditional Order and Final Order is essential for navigating the legal aspects of divorce.

    By following the outlined process and seeking guidance from a qualified divorce solicitor, you can ensure a smoother transition from marriage to divorce, enabling you to move forward with your life.

    Do you want to get divorced in a quick, affordable, and hassle-free way?

    Our online divorce service helps to minimise your legal costs and streamline the process of obtaining a Final Order, resulting in a quicker, cheaper, and all-round simpler process.

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    This service is the quickest and easiest way to get divorced. Our team of divorce experts handles all aspects of your divorce and keeps you updated on the progress, each step of the way.

    Mark Keenan - CEO of Divorce-OnlineThis post was written by Mark Keenan. Managing Director of Online Legal Services Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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