What’s The Difference Between Decree Nisi And Decree Absolute?

Divorce Questions: What’s the difference between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute?

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People are often confused about Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute – why are there two decrees and what does each one mean?

Historically there was a six month gap between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute to give the couple a chance to reconsider their relationship or to object to some aspect of the divorce but this was drastically shortened to six weeks some time ago.


Decree Nisi

A Decree Nisi is a provisional order granted once the Court is satisfied that you are entitled to get divorced. It DOES NOT mean that you are divorced, though you are on the way there. Until Decree Absolute is granted you are still married.

At the Decree Nisi stage you will receive two documents: the District Judge’s certificate and then a few weeks later the Decree Nisi itself. The District Judge’s certificate will tell you that your Decree Nisi application has been listed for a hearing at Court in front of a Judge. But don’t worry! You don’t have to attend Court for this hearing and it is exceptionally rare that people do so. The Judge simply confirms aloud that Decree Nisi is granted and it takes a matter of moments. If you want to dispute who pays the costs of the divorce then you can attend but must let the Court and the other party know in advance. A solicitor will be able to advise whether you need to attend or not. After the hearing you will be sent the Decree Nisi document.

At this stage the Court can start making financial orders relating to the divorce, though they will not be effective until Decree Absolute.

There is no fee for a Decree Nisi application.

Decree Absolute

Six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi is pronounced the Petitioner (the person applying for the divorce) can make an application for Decree Absolute by completing a short form. In truly exceptional cases the six weeks and one day can be shortened upon application to the Court. If you feel that you need this then you should seek expert advice from a solicitor.

Once the Decree Absolute is granted any financial orders made by the Court will become effective. It is normal to wait more than six weeks and one day if financial matters are still being concluded between the couple or with the help of the Court. If a Respondent feels that the Petitioner is delaying unreasonably and this time goes beyond four months then they may be able to make an application for Decree Absolute themselves. Again, it is best to seek expert advice from a family law solicitor to find out if this is the right thing to do – it is important not to rush this while financial matter are ongoing.

When Decree Absolute is granted the marriage is over and the parties are free to marry again if they wish. It is important to keep the Decree Absolute documentation safe for the future as you may need to show it to banks, pensions companies, etc.

If your divorce was begun in July 2013 or later then there is no fee for a Decree Absolute application.


If you have any questions about your own divorce, or are thinking of divorce and want to know more, call us on 0800 222 9500 to get some advice from an expert family law solicitor.


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