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Halfway to Divorce

family law advice

Halfway to divorce:  What does decree nisi really mean?

Jodie Marsh has just recently tweeted that she is ‘halfway to divorce’ having received her Decree Nisi.  On the other hand it is often reported that celebrities are divorced upon them receiving their Decree Nisi.  So which is correct?

The answer is neither.

The process of divorce

The process is started by one party completing a divorce petition.  The divorce must be based on one of the following 5 reasons:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Living apart for more than 2 years with consent
  5. Living apart for more than 5 years.

Once completed the divorce petition is sent to the court for processing.  It will then be sent out to the other party to the marriage.

In the majority of cases that party will complete a form to confirm that they have received the papers and do not intent to defend the proceedings.  That form is then returned to the court.

The court then processes this and the person who originally started the proceedings (known as the Applicant or Petitioner) will then need to complete a further form to apply for the Decree Nisi.

The Decree Nisi is pronounced by a judge who has reviewed the papers and is content that the parties are entitled to a divorce.

Following Decree Nisi there is a mandatory 6 week period before the Petitioner/ Applicant can apply for a Decree Absolute.  This is dealt with by one form which ordinarily is processed by court staff without further recourse to a judge. The Decree Absolute is the final order which ends the marriage.

So why the confusion?

The divorce process itself is often seen by family law solicitors as the most straightforward aspect of a separation as issues regarding finances and/ or children are often more complicated and time consuming to sort out.  That being said if you are not dealing with this paperwork day to day then it is not necessarily a straightforward task and the inaccurate reporting of the divorce process often confuses matters.

Looking at the process above it is clear that Decree Nisi is actually more than halfway through the process but equally it is not the end.

Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that the media are more likely to find out about the pronouncement of Decree Nisi as this is pronounced in open court whereas an application for decree absolute is dealt with privately.

There are also often references in the media to a ‘quickie divorce’.  This is the process which has been described above and which most people will use.  It is not a special process for VIPs or simply people in a rush which is how it sounds.

There are reasons why a divorce will not follow this pattern, for example, where one party decides to defend the divorce, there are issues about jurisdiction or there is a delay incurred because one party refuses to acknowledge the papers at all but those cases are relatively rare.

More information about divorce can be found on the government website: 

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

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