Decree Absolute – When To Obtain


Married couples wanting to get a divorce in England and Wales are required to follow a fixed divorce process.

The divorce process can take many months and that will depend on how complex the financial situation was within the marriage and whether the financials’ can be resolved without the need for a court hearing.

Obtaining Decree Absolute is the final stage of the divorce process that legally brings a marriage to an end.

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 an order of the court. This also allows additional time for any appeal.

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.

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.

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.

To apply for a decree absolute, you need to fill in a Form 36 – decree absolute form. 

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.

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.

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 means it will be 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 filing for divorce and the serving of divorce papers to applying for a decree nisi and a decree absolute we can assist you.


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