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Decree Absolute – The three W’s

We at Maguire Family Law are asked lots of questions about obtaining what is for many people, the end goal of the ‘Decree Absolute’.

We thought it may be helpful to set out a quick ‘who what and when’ guide about the document as it can often be the subject of confusion!

Who: the Petitioner in the divorce usually makes the application to obtain the Decree Absolute, however, after a certain period has elapsed (set out below), the application can be made by the Respondent instead.

What: the ‘Decree Absolute’ is the final divorce order ie the document which confirms that the parties are no longer legally married to one another. To make the application requires submission of a simple form to the Court together with a cheque to cover the fee of £50.

When: The Petitioner can make the application for the Decree Absolute six weeks and one day following the date when the interim divorce Order (the Decree Nisi) is obtained.
If, for one reason or another, the Petitioner is not ready to make the application or wishes to wait, the Respondent can make the application with leave of the Court three months following the date upon which the Petitioner can make the application.
If a period of 12 months or more has elapsed, the process is slightly different and the Court requires the parties to confirm the reason for the delay, whether they have resumed cohabitation and if any children have been born during this time.
Quite often, we find that parties will agree to wait to obtain the Decree Absolute until a financial agreement is in place. This is particularly important in cases where the parties have assets such as pension provisions and life policies. This is to avoid the situation whereby a party loses their entitlement to any ‘spousal’ benefits which may be payable in the event of the premature death of the holder prior to a financial agreement being put in place. Such circumstances are difficult to deal with but it demonstrates why it is important to consider the position properly and in many cases, the application should not be rushed.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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