Decree Absolute: What it is and how to Get One

As we explained in our guide to the decree nisi, there are multiple stages to getting divorced. The final one is securing your decree absolute. Without this, your marriage is not officially over.

This is what the decree absolute is and how you can get one.

What is a decree absolute?

A decree absolute is the final stage of a divorce. It’s an official document that proves your marital status.

You should make sure you hang onto yours as you will need it if you’re ever asked to prove that you’re divorced – for example, if you want to remarry.

If you do lose your original copy, you can request another one, though. You’ll need your court number to do this, so make a note of it. If you have both your court number and case number, getting a copy will cost £10. If you only know your court number, it will cost £45.

But if you don’t know which court to ask, you can ask that the Central Family Court searches for it. This will cost £65 for each decade that is searched through.

When ending a civil partnership, you’ll receive a final order instead of a decree absolute.

How to get a decree absolute

After you’ve received your decree nisi, you can then apply for your decree absolute. You’ll need to ask the court to make your decree nisi absolute. In a civil partnership, you’ll ask the court to make a conditional order a final order.

The court will have to make sure that the relevant time limits have been met and that there are no reasons that a divorce should not be granted.

You may also want to get a legally binding financial agreement, which sets out how you and your spouse will split your home, savings, investments and pensions. To get one, you’ll have to apply to the court before you apply for your decree absolute.

How long does it take to get a decree absolute?

After your decree nisi is issued, you’ll have to wait 43 days before you can apply for your decree absolute. This time gives you the chance to think about whether getting divorced is what you want to do.

You can use this period to come to a financial arrangement or work out what you’re going to do about your children.

And you’ll have 12 months from your decree nisi being issued to apply for your decree absolute. If you don’t do it in this period, you’ll have to explain to the court why you delayed the application.

After applying for your decree absolute, your divorce will usually be finalised within three weeks. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to delays in most legal areas, so this could take longer if you apply now.

If you don’t apply for your decree absolute, your spouse will be able to. But they’ll have to wait a further three months – on top of the 43 days – to be able to.

Your solicitor will be able to let you know how long you can expect to wait for your divorce to be made official. If you have any questions about ending a marriage – whether it’s about the start of the process or the decree absolute stage – don’t hesitate to ask them.

First4Lawyers could match you to an expert divorce solicitor, who will be able to guide you through what is usually a stressful time. To find out more about how we can help, just give us a call or make an enquiry online and we’ll get back to you.

Disclaimer: This guide was published before the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation and some of the language used may no longer be relevant – mainly the use of the terms decree nisi and decree absolute. These have now been replaced by the terms conditional order and final order.


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