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The introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on 6 April 2022 brought about a number of changes to the processes involved in divorce and separation for residents in England and Wales. The long-awaited reforms that have come with no-fault divorce have also seen the introduction of various new terms. One such change is the ‘Final Order’ replacing the ‘Decree Absolute’.
The Final Order represents the final stage of the legal processes involved in divorce. It is the legal confirmation that a couple has divorced or completed a civil partnership dissolution under English and Welsh Law.
No-fault divorce has removed the ability for one party to contest a divorce, which means that a couple will typically be issued a Final Order if they have followed all the correct procedures during the process. However, if any mistakes are made in the process, this could cause unwanted delays that affect how long it takes to receive the Final Order.
At Crisp & Co, we have a detailed understanding of the legal processes involved in no-fault divorce and can advise you in relation to Final Orders. This will include ensuring that your divorce application is completed accurately and that you receive clear, consistent advice and guidance during the entire no-fault divorce process.
To speak to a member of our family law team about Final 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 Final Order used to be called?
Under previous divorce laws, a Final Order was called a ‘Decree Absolute’.
Are there any differences between a Final Order and a Decree Absolute?
The main function of both the previous Decree Absolute and the Final Order are essentially the same. Just like the Decree Absolute, the Final Order serves to provide legal confirmation of the divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
The timescales associated with both the Decree Absolute and the Final Order are also the same. The applicant(s) must wait at least six weeks after the Conditional Order (formerly the Decree Nisi) has been issued before they are able to apply for a Final Order.
How do you apply for a Final Order?
Given that the Final Order is the last step in legally finalising a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, there are a number of steps in the no-fault divorce process which need to be navigated before an application can be made.
The start of the no-fault divorce process involves one or both spouses completing and submitting an online divorce application. This divorce application (formerly known as the divorce petition) will need to include a statement of irretrievable breakdown that confirms the relationship has ended.
It was previously the case that a reason needed to be provided to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, including reasons such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Under no-fault divorce, this is no longer necessary.
A divorce application can be a made by one spouse, which is then sent to the other by the court. The responding spouse then needs to confirm receipt and send back an ‘acknowledgement of service’ within 14 days, they will not be able to contest the divorce. Alternatively, a joint application can also be made.
The applicant(s) is then required to wait for 20 weeks before they can apply for a Conditional Order. This acts as the middle stage of the legal processes and confirms that you are entitled to a divorce under English and Welsh law.
Following this, another 6-week waiting period is then observed, before the Final Order can be applied for. You will usually receive notification when you are able to make this application.
Will my application for a Final Order be accepted?
If you have progressed through the no-fault divorce process and are ready to apply for a Final Order, it is unlikely that this will be refused by the court. As mentioned, it is not possible for your former spouse to contest the divorce, which means you should be able to receive a Final Order, even with a sole application.
There are some very limited circumstances which may provide sufficient grounds for a divorce application to be rejected in the first instance. This includes scenarios where the English and Welsh courts do not have the jurisdiction to deal with the divorce, the marriage is not deemed valid, or you are already divorced.
What happens when a Final Order is issued?
Once the Final Order is granted, the divorce or civil partnership dissolution is considered finalised. You and your former partner will be considered legally separated.
Can you change your mind after a Final Order is granted?
Typically, no. Once the Final Order is issued, the divorce will be considered legally binding. If you decide to continue your relationship with your spouse, you will not be considered married or in a civil partnership.
Do you have to wait for a Final Order to be issued before you can make a consent order?
No-fault divorce has been introduced to help streamline the legal process of getting a divorce, but it has no effect on the separation of finances or arrangements for children. These arrangements need to be made separately.
While such arrangements can be made on a voluntary basis, a consent order needs to be made for them to be considered legally binding.
You do not need to wait for the Final Order to be issued before you make a consent order. You can start this process as soon as the Conditional Order has been granted.
Contact our no-fault divorce solicitors
Crisp & Co is a dedicated firm of family lawyers, with a diverse range of expertise and substantial experience. We are able to support you with everything from straightforward separations through to complex divorces with high-value assets.
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.