What is a Decree Absolute?

19 Oct 2021 | Claire Andrews

A Decree Absolute is the final stage in divorce proceedings and the document that officially ends the marriage. 

This article explores the ins and outs of the Decree Absolute to help you manage your divorce without stress. 

It should be noted that the divorce process is changing and the new ‘no fault divorce’ legislation coming into effect. The Government have suggested an implementation date of Spring 2022. 

There will still be the two-stage divorce process however, the Decree Nisi will be called a Conditional Divorce Order and the Decree Absolute will be called a Final Divorce Order.

Why is it important? 

A certificate of Decree Absolute is a legal document that confirms your marriage has ended. Once the Decree Absolute is granted, you are free to marry again, if you wish.

It is a good idea to keep your certificate in a safe place. You may be required to show it to prove your marital status, for example, if you are changing your name on your mortgage, driving licence or bank account.

How do you apply for a Decree Absolute?

The court will not automatically grant a Decree Absolute and the Petitioner must apply for it via the online divorce portal. The earliest they can do this is six weeks and one day (43 days) after the Decree Nisi is pronounced. It’s important to not apply too soon or the application will be rejected by the court.

As a reminder, the Decree Nisi confirms that the parties have the legal right to end their marriage and have proved one of the grounds for divorce.

Read more about Decree Nisi here. 

Once the application is made online, the court will generally issue the Decree Absolute within 2 to 3 weeks. The actual period may be longer or shorter depending on how busy the court is although the rollout of the online divorce portal has sped up the whole process. The date the marriage comes to an end is the date which is written on the Decree Absolute.

Normally, the process can be done online and no further court hearings are required.

What if the Petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute?

If the Petitioner does not apply for a Decree Absolute, their spouse can, but they must wait an extra 3 months to apply after the earliest date on which the Petitioner could have obtained the Decree Absolute (43 days after Decree Nisi). Since it is not the normal procedure for the Respondent to apply, the Petitioner must be served with notice of the application and often a short court hearing will be listed.

You’ll also need to submit an additional statement or letter to the court with the application for Decree Absolute if more than 12 months have passed since the date of the Decree Nisi. The statement must set out the reasons for the delay, and confirm that the parties to the divorce have not been cohabiting and that no other children have been born to either parent in the meantime.

Do I need to have made a financial agreement before the Decree Absolute?

The divorce can be finalised before all financial matters are resolved. However, in most cases, it is prudent to postpone making an application for a Decree Absolute until you have reached a financial agreement with your spouse. 

That’s because you could lose some or all rights to your spouse’s pension, or lose certain tax exemptions if the Decree Absolute is granted before the financial order is made. 

The financial aspects of divorce are often the trickiest part. It’s a good idea to seek expert legal advice before applying for your Decree Absolute to avoid any impacts or delays.

Overview

  • Decree Absolute (soon to be referred to as the Final Divorce Order) is the final order of the court in divorce proceedings 
  • Once granted, the marriage is legally over and the parties are free to remarry
  • The Petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute 43 days after the Decree Nisi (soon to be referred to as the Conditional Divorce Order) pronouncement
  • You should avoid getting a Decree Absolute until all financial matters are resolved to protect your spousal rights

Claire Andrews is a specialist divorce lawyer with a particular emphasis on complex high net worth cases often involving trusts and divorce.  She is also featured in The Legal 500 as a recommended lawyer.

To speak with Claire, please call, or complete an online enquiry form.

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