What is a Decree Nisi?

The Decree Nisi is the first stage of the two-part divorce order which culminates in Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute brings the marriage to the end and confirms that you are formally divorced.

Once divorce proceedings have been issued by the person applying for the divorce, otherwise known as the petitioner, the court will serve the divorce petition by first class post to the address provided for the respondent.

The respondent has 14 days to return a document called the Acknowledgment of Service form to the court. In this form, the respondent acknowledges receipt of the petition and indicates whether he or she agrees with the contents of the petition.

If the respondent does not indicate an intention to defend the divorce proceedings, the petitioner is able to apply for the first stage of the two-part divorce order, the Decree Nisi.

 

Application for Decree Nisi

The petitioner must file a statement in support of the divorce petition to accompany the application for Decree Nisi. The statement in support of divorce must be completed by the petitioner as it aims to ensure that the contents of the divorce petition remain true and correct and that there have been no changes in circumstances that may affect the petitioner’s ability to rely on the relevant fact to support the fact that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

When the court receive the petitioner's application for Decree Nisi, the court will check the following: -

  • the divorce petition has been served on the respondent; and
  • the divorce proceedings are undefended.

The court will consider the divorce petition, the respondent’s acknowledgement of service form and the petitioner’s statement in support of the divorce.

If the court is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a Decree Nisi, the court will direct that the application for Decree Nisi is listed before a District Judge on the next available date.

If the petitioner has included a claim that the respondent pays the costs of the divorce proceedings within the petition the court will make a direction for the respondent to pay all or some of the costs or if the court is not satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to costs the court may make no direction as to costs.

The court will send both parties notice of the Decree Nisi date, together with any court order in respect of the cost of the divorce.

 

Do I need to attend court?

If either party objects to the court’s order in respect of the divorce costs, then that party must give notice not less than 14 days before the Decree Nisi hearing that he or she wishes to make representations at that hearing.

Unless there is a dispute regarding the costs of the divorce proceedings neither the petitioner nor the respondent is required to attend the hearing. The Decree Nisi is read out on the relevant day by a District Judge in open court.

If the court is not satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a Decree Nisi, the court may ask for further evidence to clarify any information in the petitioner’s statement in support of divorce or the court may list the matter for a directions hearing.

 

What happens after Decree Nisi is granted?

Following the Decree Nisi being read out on the relevant day by a District Judge, a copy of the Decree Nisi is sent to both parties or their solicitors.

 

Application for Decree Absolute

It is possible to apply for Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the day the Decree Nisi is pronounced. The court will check that the time limits have been met and that there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce.

The court will send the Decree Absolute to both parties. The Decree Absolute is the legal document that brings the marriage to the end and confirms that you are formally divorced.

If the petitioner does not apply for Decree Absolute within 4½ months, the respondent can apply for this. The petitioner would be notified of the application and would have the opportunity to oppose the application in court.

If you do not apply for your Decree Absolute within 12 months, you will need to file a statement in support of the application confirming why the application was not made earlier. You will need to confirm whether the parties have lived together since Decree Nisi and whether a child of the family has been born to either party.

 

When to delay applying for Decree Absolute

It is not good practice to terminate the marriage before financial issues are resolved and incorporated into a financial consent order. Termination of the marriage affects inheritance rights, pension rights and taxation.

 

Matrimonial home rights and Decree Absolute

It may be important to delay applying for Decree Absolute where one party has registered home rights to protect their interest in the former family home.

If the former family home is owned in the sole name of one party the other party may have registered their home rights protect their rights of occupation and ensure that any potential buyers or lenders are aware of their rights.

Home rights expire on Decree Absolute and if financial matters are not resolved by the time Decree Absolute is pronounced the party seeking to protect their rights would have to make an application under the Family Law Act 1996 to extend their home rights beyond Decree Absolute.

 

How do I get a copy of my Decree Absolute if I have lost it?

You can contact the court where your divorce was dealt with and make an application for a copy. Alternatively, this can be done online. You should provide your case number if you have this.

If you do not know the case number, you can provide your name and address to the court that issued your Decree Absolute and the court will search the records.

 

What to do next? 

If you need advice regarding either a Decree Nisi or Decree Absolute then speak to one of our specialist divorce solicitors who will discuss with you your available options. You can call us on 0161-941-4000 or alternatively via email lawyers@myerson.co.uk