What is a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute

In Divorce

When going through the court process to get a divorce, you will come across these two decrees. They are the necessary court orders which will legally end your marriage. These are a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute.

What is a Decree Nisi?

A Decree Nisi is an order given by the court when it believes that a marriage has broken down irreversibly. This means that in principle the divorce can go ahead. You can only apply for a Decree Nisi after you have filed a petition for divorce. There are five statement forms used as grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery statement
  • Unreasonable behaviour statement
  • Desertion statement
  • Two years’ separation statement
  • Five years’ separation statement

When applying for a Decree Nisi you must state that what you said in your petition for divorce is true. If your partner (the ‘respondent’) agrees to your petition, your application for a Decree Nisi can go ahead. If your partner does not agree to the divorce you can still apply for a Decree Nisi, but you will have to go to a court hearing. A judge will then decide whether you should be granted a Decree Nisi.

If your application is successful, the judge will send you a certificate of the decree. If it is rejected, you’ll receive a ‘notice of refusal of judge’s certificate’ form. This will explain why you cannot divorce.

You will have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) before you can apply for a Decree Absolute. This officially ends the marriage. Crucially, you can only apply to the courts to sort out marital finances after you have received a Decree Nisi.

What is a Decree Absolute?

A Decree Absolute is a court’s final order which legally ends a marriage. This document means that you and your ex-partner are free to remarry. The party who petitioned for divorce can apply for a Decree Absolute immediately after the 43 day period. However, the ‘respondent’ will have to wait 3 months before they can apply.

Importantly, a Decree Absolute does not end your financial obligations to your ex-spouse. Unless you have a financial order in place, financial obligations to your spouse do not automatically end after divorce.

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