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Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute

The Decree Nisi is the provisional decree in divorce proceedings. It is at this stage that a Judge pronounces that you are entitled to a divorce. 

The Decree Nisi does not end the marriage. The media often report that couples, normally celebrities, are granted a “quickie divorce in less than 60 seconds” by a court. This is misleading as it usually refers to the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. The divorce is not granted or made final until the Decree Absolute has been pronounced.

If the divorce is undefended, the Judge will review your Petition and any supporting evidence, where needed and will then decide if you are entitled to the divorce.

In some situations the Judge may raise questions or reject the application for example if there is an error in the paperwork, if the Respondent has not provided consent to a petition which requires consent or if an error in law is made, especially when people represent themselves. Usually though, the Judge will be satisfied.

Once this decision is made, a certificate of entitlement is sent to the parties. On this the date and time for pronouncement of the Decree Nisi is given. There is no need for a couple to attend court for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi unless the Judge has specifically ordered it for issues such as who pays for the divorce, or how those costs will be shared Usually, parties will not attend court and a Judge will sit in open court and pronounce the Decree Nisi’s listed for that day.

From the date of the Decree Nisi the person that filed the petition has to wait six weeks and one day before they can apply for the Decree absolute. This is to allow time for any objections to be raised. Objections are rare and tend to only arise if there has been an abuse of the process for example a forged signature on a document. The delay also allows couples to be certain that they want to divorce. It has been known for couples to reconcile at a very late stage and as long as this happens before the Decree Absolute, they remain married and can apply to rescind the Decree Nisi. 

It is possible in extreme circumstances to shorten the six week and one day period. This requires an application to court and application of this nature are extremely rare.

In most cases, once the six weeks and one day has passed, the Decree Absolute will be applied for and pronounced. If the person that filed the Petition does not apply for the divorce and appears to have no intention of doing so, the person receiving the Petition can apply three months from the first date the petitioner could have submitted the application. This is a more complicated way, as a formal application has to be made and a court hearing will be required.

One important impact of the Decree Nisi is that its pronouncement is the triggering point for orders relating to financial settlements to be considered or made by a Judge.  

Emma Hubbard is a solicitor specialising in Family Law in Sheffield. Cartwright King's Family solicitors have offices in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Leicester, London, Milton Keynes, Newcastle and Nottingham. Emma can be contacted on 07889648497 or For our other offices please contact or 0845 894 1622.

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