What is a decree absolute? And why is it so important?
Divorce can be a confusing process, made more difficult by the unfamiliar legal jargon. This article tells you everything you need to know about the decree absolute. A court-issued document that legally ends your marriage.
If you are reading this, there is a very good chance that you want a decree absolute. So how do you get one?
Before you can obtain a decree absolute, you need to apply for a decree nisi.
Decree nisi, decree absolute. What is the difference!?
The decree nisi is the first of a two-part court judgement (known as an order) that ends with a decree absolute. Once the spouse applying for divorce has begun proceedings (known as the petitioner), the court serves the divorce petition on the other spouse (known as the respondent).
The respondent has 14 days to return a document called the Acknowledgment of Service form to the court. This form allows the respondent to indicate if he or she agrees with the contents of the petition.
If the respondent does not want to defend the divorce proceedings, the petitioner can apply for the decree nisi. The decree nisi is a declaration from the court permitting you to divorce.
When can I apply for a decree absolute?
Having secured the decree nisi, there is a six-week and one day ‘cooling off’ period before you can apply for the decree absolute that officially ends your marriage.
Once the court has received your application, the divorce will usually be finalised in two weeks.
It’s important to place your decree absolute in a secure place as it proves your marital status and is necessary if you decide to remarry.
What happens if I do not apply for the decree absolute?
If you don’t apply for your decree absolute, your spouse can after four and a half months. If this happens, the court will notify you, and you will have the opportunity to oppose the application in court.
And if you wait longer than 12 months after the decree nisi, you will have to make a statement explaining why you did not make the application earlier.
The decree absolute and financial settlements
While a decree absolute ends your marriage, it does not end financial ties with your ex. To severe these, it is necessary to make a separate application (known as a financial order) to the court. Putting your financial settlement into a legally binding court order is the only way to ensure that neither party can make future financial claims against each other.
When to delay applying for decree absolute
Although it is possible to divorce without legally severing financial ties, it is not recommended in some circumstances. Terminating the marriage affects inheritance and pension rights. Therefore if you apply for the decree absolute before filing a financial order, it may affect your entitlement to marriage assets such as pension and trust funds.
Also, be aware that home rights expire with the decree absolute. If the former family home is owned in one spouse’s sole name, the other spouse may have registered their home rights to protect their rights of occupation and alerting potential buyers or lenders.
Applying for a financial order
You cannot apply for a financial order until you have a decree nisi. But rather than wait until this date, it is good practice for couples to start discussions on financial splits once the divorce petition has been submitted. This allows time for potentially heated disagreements to be replaced by pragmatic agreements. It also helps both spouses to move on with their lives quicker because they know where they are financially, allowing them to plan for the future.
I’ve lost my decree absolute. How can I get a copy?
If you know your case number and the court that granted your decree absolute, you get a replacement for £10 by sending them an email.
If you know the court but not the case number, it will cost you £45, and if you know neither, it costs £65 for the Central Family Court to locate it for you. For more details on all three options, visit here.
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, or online divorce in general, email us, call us on 0204 530 8101 or schedule a call back below.