What is a Conditional Order?

30 Oct 2023 | Claire Andrews
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The introduction of no-fault divorces in England and Wales removed the need to assign blame for the breakdown of a marriage and introduced new terminology in divorce proceedings. “Decree Nisi”, a familiar term in the divorce process, has been replaced with “Conditional Order” under the new laws.

What is a Conditional Order?

A Conditional Order is the middle stage in the no-fault divorce process. It essentially confirms that you have met all of the legal requirements for a divorce in England and Wales.

As with its predecessor, the Decree Nisi, there are specific processes to be carried out and deadlines to be met in order to obtain a Conditional Order. 

Are there differences between Decree Nisi and Conditional Orders?

The biggest difference is the timescale involved. In the previous divorce process, you can apply for the Decree Nisi as soon as the respondent (the person who didn’t file the divorce petition) acknowledged they had received the divorce papers.

Under the new no-fault system, you cannot apply for a Conditional Order until 20 weeks have elapsed from the date the court issues the divorce application. This period is known as the ‘reflection phase.’ It has been introduced to give separating couples time to ponder their decision and confirm that divorce is indeed the right choice for them.

How do you get a Conditional Order?

Applying for a Conditional Order is the midpoint process for obtaining a divorce in England and Wales.

Before you reach this stage, one or both parties must start a divorce application confirming that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. With no-fault divorce, there is no longer a need to give a reason for the marriage breakdown, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. 

Once the application is made, the court will process it and ensure that the other party (if a sole application) has been served with the papers.

You will then enter the 20-week waiting period. This is an opportunity for the parties to start reflect on the decision to end the marriage, and to start working towards a financial settlement. When the 20 week period comes to an end, the applicant can apply for a Conditional Order. 

If it is a joint application then you should jointly apply for the Conditional Order. However, one of you can do this as a solo applicant if the other person refuses to cooperate.

Can my application for a Conditional Order be refused?

It is no longer required to give a reason for the breakdown of your marriage. That means it is no longer possible for your ex-partner to contest the divorce application on the basis that they do not agree to the grounds for divorce. 

There are a few technical legal situations where a court may refuse the Conditional Order, for example, if the marriage is not recognised in England and Wales or the courts do not have jurisdiction. A solicitor can help explain these situations and advise on how best to proceed.

Does a Conditional Order end my marriage?

No, a Conditional Order does not end the marriage. Once the Conditional Order has been granted, you must wait 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) before applying for the Final Order (previously called the Decree Absolute). Once the Final Order is granted, the marriage or civil partnership is legally dissolved.

Do we need to agree to a financial settlement before getting the Conditional Order?

A key part of the divorce process involves making financial arrangements. Most couples decide these arrangements between themselves and use the 20-week reflection period as an opportunity to disclose their financial assets and work towards a fair settlement.

You can only submit a financial agreement, in the form of a Consent Order, after the Conditional Order has been granted.

Talk to our specialist divorce lawyers

Osbornes Law is your dependable team of family law specialists with expertise across a wide range of divorce and separation matters. To talk about Conditional Orders or any aspect related to no-fault divorce processes, please give us a call or fill out our enquiry form for a prompt response.

  • Fill in our online enquiry form; or
  • Call us on 020 7485 8811

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