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What is the difference between a decree nisi and a decree absolute?

Monday, 24 March 2014

In order to complete a judicial separation, an annulment or a divorce, you will need to apply for a decree. In England and Wales, the decree nisi and decree absolute mark the final stages of the divorce process, but how exactly do they differ?

The simplest way to explain these two decrees is that a decree nisi represents the courts initial approval, in that there are valid grounds for a divorce and the marriage has irretrievably broken-down. After a cooling-off period, the decree absolute confirms their decision as final and the divorce is finalised.


The decree nisi:

Although a decree nisi confirms that the grounds for divorce  have been met, it does not mean that the petitioner and respondent are already divorced, this can only happen with a decree absolute.

The decree nisi is the first of the two decrees and is read out by a judge in Court but there is no reason for either party to attend, unless cost disputes are involved.

The decree nisi allows for a six-week ‘cooling-off’ period before it is made a decree absolute. The delay of six weeks is compulsory and cannot be hurried along without good reason. After six weeks, the petitioner may apply to make the decree absolute, provided that the two parties have not reconciled, in which case the court may rescind the decree nisi and the divorce will be stopped.

The decree absolute:

The decree absolute marks the final stages of the divorce stage, after six weeks and a day, petitioners can apply to officially confirm the ending of a marriage. It must be applied for and is not automatically issued by the courts. Once this application has been sent, it is usually the case that no further court hearings will be required. However, it is worth noting that applications by the respondent for a decree absolute are not guaranteed to be accepted and will first have to be assessed by a judge.

Our Guide to Divorce can help explain further the details of the divorce process and you can read more about our legal services by clicking here.

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