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Getting a decree absolute 
- everything you need to know about the final stage of divorce

Married couples wanting to get a divorce in England and Wales are required to follow a fixed divorce process. Quite often, a divorcing couple will want to know how long their divorce is likely to take and how much it is going to cost. This is never an easy or straightforward question to answer because the circumstances of each divorce can be very different.

The short answer to the question is that it can take many months and can cost anything upwards of £1,000 in solicitors fees and court costs. On average, it can take 20-22 weeks to get a decree absolute pronounced - which is the final stage of the divorce process that legally brings a marriage to an end.

The legal process up to this point can often seem slow and frustrating, especially if you are hoping for a speedy divorce and are ready to move on with your life, enter a new relationship or even remarry.

What is a decree absolute? Why is it so important?

A decree absolute is the final order which concludes the divorce process. Your decree absolute certificate is the legal document you need to confirm that your marriage has officially ended, meaning you are free to marry again, if you wish.

You should therefore keep your certificate of decree absolute in a safe place as you will be required to show an original copy of it, to prove your marital status if required. It is also a good idea to keep a record of your court number so that, in the event you misplace your original decree absolute document, you can apply to the court for another copy by quoting the court number.

How long does a decree absolute take after application?

You will need to wait a minimum of 43 days (six weeks and one day) after the issue of your decree nisi or conditional order before you can apply to the court for your decree absolute. It is important to note that applications sent too soon run the risk of being rejected by the court.

Once your decree absolute application has been received by the court, your divorce will be finalised within approximately two to three weeks. This is the usual amount of time it takes to receive your decree absolute certificate, the final piece of paper you need to prove you are officially divorced and free to remarry.

How to apply for a decree absolute – the final order to legally end a marriage or civil partnership.

To apply for a decree absolute, you need to fill in a decree absolute form known as a notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute, also known as a Form D36. This form will ask the court to make a decree nisi absolute or a conditional order, final.

Before granting your decree absolute, the court will check that time limits have been met and that there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce. The court will then send both you and your former spouse a decree absolute, ending your marriage and giving you both the freedom to remarry, should either of you wish to do so.

What happens if I do not apply for the decree absolute?

If you don’t apply for the decree absolute, your spouse can. This will delay the divorce process your spouse will have to wait an extra 3 months to apply, in addition to the standard 43 days.

Applying for a decree absolute out of time?

If you do not apply for your decree absolute within 12 months of the decree nisi, you will have to explain your reasons for the delay to the court.

What happens if I apply for a decree absolute before the final financial order?

A financial settlement does not necessarily have to be in place for you to apply for a decree absolute. However, if you have not yet reached a financial agreement in your divorce, then it is advisable not to apply for the decree absolute because your entitlement to certain assets of the marriage could be affected.

For example, pension funds, trust funds or other complex assets cannot be transferred except to a spouse. Also, if you remarry you could lose some or all rights in respect to any subsequent attempt to claim from your former spouse. Another potential issue is that if one of you dies before a financial order has been made, the surviving spouse will lose out on any automatic spousal benefits that would have been paid.

That is why it is a good idea to consider waiting, especially if you are planning to remarry, until the financial settlement has been finalised by what is known as a sealed order of the court. This also allows additional time for an appeal and a service of appeal to lapse which could take a further 28 days.

Other financial issues that might arise could include the tax charges on the transfer of assets where exemptions exist between spouses. In these types of circumstances, it is prudent to consider delaying your application for your decree absolute and to remain married, waiting until all the finances have been settled and the consent order has been approved by the court before then applying for your decree absolute.

The financial aspects of finalising a divorce can be a potential minefield, so it is always a good idea to seek professional, legal advice before applying for your decree absolute.

Things you now need to think about doing after your decree absolute is granted and you are officially divorced.

Once you have received your decree absolute, it is official that you are now legally divorced. There are, however, still lots of practical things you need to think about doing to make your divorce final and to register your new status, going forward.

This includes:

  • Changing your Will, especially if you have the intention of remarrying
  • Applying for a new passport and driving licence
  • Informing your mortgage lender
  • Closing any joint bank accounts
  • Changing personal contact details for bank accounts, credit cards, utility bills and insurance policies
  • Notifying HM Revenue & Customs
  • Informing your children’s school.

From divorce petition to decree absolute, our expert divorce lawyers will support you throughout the entire divorce process

From filing for divorce and the serving of divorce papers to applying for a decree nisi and a decree absolute, our specialist divorce lawyers at Crisp & Co have been supporting people throughout the entire divorce process, helping them to move forward, day by day and step by step, towards getting their life back on track.

At Crisp & Co, our dedicated team of divorce lawyers consists of members of Resolution – a group of family lawyers committed to removing conflict from family law. We aim to help you resolve your divorce with compassion and efficiency by taking the time to listen to you and understand your individual circumstances before advising you of your legal rights, options and the best way forward in your divorce.  

We firmly believe that non-confrontational dispute resolution is the best approach and we will work hard to ensure that, no matter how your divorce progresses, we can help you achieve a fair and prompt outcome that works in the best interests of you and your family.

Financial Settlement in Divorce

When going through a divorce, the financial settlement can often be the trickiest part. We are able to draw on our wealth of experience to offer you fast, tailored advice so you can reach a quick resolution to the financial settlement in your divorce proceedings, helping you to avoid, or at least minimise, any delays in the divorce process.

Whatever your particular circumstances or the nature of your divorce, our expert divorce solicitors at Crisp & Co are here to support you throughout your proceedings from start to finish. We can guide you through all of the things you need to consider and offer help with the practical steps required to move forward.

Our goal is to help you can reach an efficient and cost-effective conclusion to your divorce, in the shortest timescale, possible.

Contact our specialist divorce solicitors in London and the South East

You can get in touch with one of our specialist divorce lawyers today by calling 020 3281 7886 or by filling in the quick contact form below.

Crisp & Co’s divorce solicitors in London and the South East have wide experience and specialist expertise in non-confrontational divorce with our team benefitting from both Resolution-trained mediators and collaborative lawyers. In most cases, this enables us to help you achieve a quick and seamless divorce, at a lower cost, avoiding the need for any lengthy or costly court action.

To find out more, you can speak to one of our expert divorce lawyers by calling 020 3797 4952 or by using the quick online enquiry form below to request a call back.

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