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Conditional Order

As of 6 April 2022, changes to the law on divorce in the UK brought about various reforms to the general processes involved in divorce and separation. Referred to as no-fault divorce, one such change under the new law involved the introduction of the term ‘Conditional Order’, which has replaced the previous term ‘Decree Nisi’.

The Conditional Order represents the middle stage of the legal processes related to a divorce. It is the legal confirmation that you are entitled to a divorce under English and Welsh law.

While, under no-fault divorce, it is no longer possible for someone to contest a divorce application, this does not necessarily mean that a Conditional Order will be automatically granted. There are certain processes which need to be followed, as well as specific timescales which dictate how long it will take before the Conditional Order is granted.

At Crisp & Co, our expert divorce solicitors are well-versed in the legal processes related to no-fault divorce and will be able to advise you in relation to Conditional Orders. This includes ensuring that your initial divorce application (either sole or joint) is detailed and accurate, as well as guiding you through the application process related to the Conditional Order.

To speak to a member of our family law team about Conditional Orders, or the general processes related to no-fault divorce, give us a call at your local branch or fill in our enquiry form for a quick response.


What did a Conditional Order used to be called?

Under previous divorce laws, the Conditional Order was called the Decree Nisi.

Are there any differences between a Conditional Order and the Decree Nisi?

The main difference between the previous Decree Nisi and a Conditional Order are the relevant timescales. Previously, you could apply for a decree nisi as soon as you received the acknowledgement of service from the respondent (the person who did not submit the divorce application).

Now, you are no longer able to apply for a Conditional Order until 20 weeks after the Divorce Application has been issued by the court. This ‘cooling off’ period has been introduced to provide separating couples with a chance to reflect on their divorce and to be sure that they are making the right decision.

How do you apply for a Conditional Order?

To be able to apply for a Conditional Order, you first need to have gone through various steps under the new no-fault divorce law.

Prior to being eligible to apply for a Conditional Order, one or both spouses must complete and submit a divorce application online. This application needs to include a statement of irretrievable breakdown to confirm that the relationship is over.

Previous laws dictated that a reason needed to be provided to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship (such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour). That is no longer required under no-fault divorce.

If the application is made by a single spouse, the court will send a copy to the other spouse, who needs to confirm receipt and send back an ‘acknowledgement of service’ within 14 days. They can no longer contest the divorce application. Alternatively, a joint applicant can also be made.

After a 20-week waiting period, you can then apply for a Conditional Order. You will usually receive notification when you are able to make this application.

It’s important to note that you can apply for a Conditional Order and continue with the divorce as a sole applicant, even if you started the process jointly with your former spouse.

Will my application for a Conditional Order be accepted?

If you have had a divorce application accepted by the court, there are unlikely to be any reasons why the court will refuse the Conditional Order.

There are some exceptional circumstances which may provide someone with the grounds to appeal a divorce application, which the courts may need to take into consideration. This includes situations where the English and Welsh courts do have the jurisdiction to deal with the divorce, the marriage is not deemed to be valid, or you are already divorced.

What Happens After a Conditional Order is granted?

After a Conditional Order is issued, there is a further 6-week waiting period before an applicant, or joint applicants, can apply for what is known as a Final Order. This was previously called the Decree Absolute.

Once the Final Order is granted, the divorce or civil partnership is considered legally over.

Can you change your mind after a Conditional Order is granted?

Even after a Conditional Order has been granted, this does not mean that the divorce is finalised. If both parties agree, the divorce does not need to go ahead and the marriage or civil partnership will not be legally over until the Final Order has been issued.

Does a Conditional Order have to be granted before a consent order can be?

While no-fault divorce has been introduced to help streamline the general processes, there are still a number of additional arrangements which need to be made, such as the division of finances and what will happen to any children in the relationship.

These matters can be sorted on a voluntary basis but, for them to be considered legally binding, an application for a consent order needs to be made.

You will be eligible to apply for a consent order as soon as a Conditional Order has been granted.

Contact our no-fault divorce solicitors

Crisp & Co is a dedicated firm of family lawyers who have specialist expertise in a wide range of matters, from straightforward separations through to complex divorce proceedings.

We are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation scheme for our skills and experience in this area, as well as our high standards of client care.

To speak to a member of our family law team about Conditional Orders, or the general processes related to no-fault divorce, give us a call at your local branch or fill in our enquiry form for a quick response.