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The difference between decree nisi & decree absolute

Please note that the following guide only applies to divorces started before 4pm on 5th April 2022. For divorces after this date, no fault divorce now applies.

Decree nisi is the first, conditional decree in divorce, and will be granted if the respondent has not indicated an intention to defend the divorce application, and the judge is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Decree nisi states that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and can be dissolved within six weeks from the pronouncement of the decree unless a cause can be shown as to why the decree should not be made absolute. It is important to note that decree nisi will not grant you the divorce and an application for a final decree must be made to the court.

Decree absolute is the final decree of divorce and if you are the applicant, the earliest you can apply for it is six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of decree nisi. If you are the respondent, and the applicant has failed to apply for the decree absolute, the earliest you can apply for the decree absolute is six weeks plus three months after the decree nisi.

Upon receiving the application for the conditional order to be made absolute, the court will check that no appeal has been lodged against the decree nisi and the correct amount of time has lapsed. If these conditions are satisfied, the court will issue decree absolute and send a copy to both parties or their solicitors. Only after you have received the decree absolute is your marriage dissolved and you are actually divorced.

It is usual to wait until any financial issues are resolved (i.e. whether one party should pay the other maintenance or how the assets are to be split) before applying for a degree absolute but this is something you should discuss with your solicitor. Therefore, in reality, there is often a longer period between the decree nisi and decree absolute.

The process is the same for civil partnerships but the terminology is slightly different. In civil partnership dissolution proceedings, the equivalent to decree nisi is called a conditional order and the equivalent for decree absolute is a known as a final order.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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