What is a decree absolute

Many people are often confused by the terminology used in divorce proceedings and commonly query what a decree absolute is. A decree absolute is effectively the final order which confirms your marriage has ended. This is the final process of legally being divorced. Once you have received your sealed certificate you can remarry should you desire to do so.

What’s the difference between decree absolute and decree nisi?

When looking at divorce you will often hear the terms decree nisi and decree absolute. Many people often feel that both decrees are the same. This is incorrect. The decree nisi confirms that the court is satisfied that you can divorce. Once the decree nisi has been granted you can legally make financial orders against your partner and resolve your financial settlements. As the decree nisi confirms you can legally divorce, it differs from the decree absolute which is the official dissolution of your marriage. Once granted you are officially divorced. Both decrees work hand in hand, given that you are unable to apply for a decree absolute unless you have obtained a decree nisi.

Is a decree absolute issued automatically?

The absolute is the final decree of a divorce. The decree absolute can only be obtained once a petition of divorce has been issued with the family court, an acknowledgement of service form has been received and once you have obtained the Decree Nisi. The decree absolute must be applied for on a special form and will not be automatically issued by the courts.

How to apply for a decree absolute?

Now that you are aware as to what is an absolute you would possibly be wondering as to how you can apply for a decree absolute. In order to apply for an absolute you will need to have been issued with a decree nisi from a family divorce centre. Following receipt of the decree nisi you have to wait for a period of 43 days before you can apply for a decree absolute.

If you are looking to apply for a decree absolute or simply want to query the consequences of doing so before concluding a financial settlement then our divorce specialists are happy to hear from you.

To apply for a decree absolute an application will need to be made with the court which issued the decree nisi.  If more than 12 months have lapsed since the decree nisi was pronounced an application and a statement in support must also be submitted to explain the reasons for the delay in ending the marriage.

Our team of family specialists have assisted hundreds of peoples in completing their application for an absolute. Should you require assistance in completing the decree absolute form we are happy to advise on how to conclude your divorce proceedings.

Applying for the decree absolute and what to consider

The process of obtaining an absolute is a straightforward process. The process itself requires a form to be completed and issued to the court together with a fee. Unlike many other family law matters, for an application of a decree absolute mediation is not required. The court will usually seal and issue a certificate of decree absolute.

It is important to consider that in some circumstances the partner who has initiated the divorce may be reluctant to apply for the decree absolute. There could be many reasons for this such as the emotional reason of the marriage coming to an end, or the fact that finances and monetary issues may need to be resolved.

Delays of more than a year in applying for a decree absolute could alter the process. The courts will require explaining why such a time has passed and in particular whether the parties have changed their mind on separating or whether a child has been born.

Obtaining a decree absolute can cause difficulties and complications where finances have not been resolved. It is therefore important to thoroughly consider before applying for an absolute. Whilst in some cases it may be beneficial to rush for an absolute, such as where one partner is likely to be subjected to bankruptcy or a child is expected with another partner, in order circumstances delaying the decree absolute application may be beneficial.

If you would like more advice or assistance on applying for an absolute , or you would like to discuss the implications of obtaining one then contact our family lawyers who would be happy to provide you with tailored advice to suit your individual circumstances.

Who can apply for a decree absolute

Both the applicant (the party who brought the divorce proceedings) and the respondent can complete the decree absolute form and submit the application to the court.  However, the time limits in which the application can be made varies depending on which party is make the application. If the applicant is making an application for a decree absolute then they can do so 43 days after the decree nisi.

If the applicant has failed to complete the decree application form then the respondent can submit an application for a decree absolute 3 months after the applicant could have applied for this.

Applying for an absolute out of time

You would possibly be eager to know the implications of applying a decree absolute out of time. If you applying for a decree absolute out of time as well as completing the application you must also provide the court with a statement of support.

This statement must outline the reasons for a delay. In many circumstances the reasons for applying out of time is that the partners have not been able to resolve the issues surrounding their finances and assets.

In such scenarios our divorce specialists can assist you and can try and arrange for an undertaking to be signed by your partner to confirm that an absolute will not be applied for until the financial aspects have settled. You can then look to use this undertaking in support of applying for a decree absolute out of time.

How long does a decree absolute application take

Once you have completed your decree absolute form and submitted your application the courts will usually finalist your divorce within 2 to 3 weeks. Once the courts have processed your application for a decree absolute they will then send a decree absolute certificate which will prove that you are officially divorced.

Do both parties receive decree absolute?

The decree absolute issued by the family court which deals with the divorce. Both you and your former spouse will receive the decree absolute once it is pronounced given that you both are parties to the divorce.

Do I need to keep the decree absolute certificate?

A decree absolute certificate is a very important legal document. As mentioned earlier the decree absolute is a confirmation that your marriage has legally ended. It is therefore important to keep the decree absolute. If you intend on marrying again, then you will require your decree absolute as evidence to confirm you can marry and are legally divorced.

Your absolute may also be required for other purposes and should therefore be kept safe. If you have lost your absolute certificate you can obtain a replacement from the family court where the divorce took place providing you have the court number. but will be required to pay a fee for the replacement. It is therefore ideal to keep a note of your court number which you may need in the event you lose your absolute certificate .

We have received the decree absolute and want to stay together, can the decree absolute be cancelled?

Once you are in receipt of the decree absolute, your divorce is final. You will not be able to cancel the absolute and will be legally divorced. If you have reconciled your differences and want to stay together in a marriage with your ex-partner, then you will need to marry them again.

It is therefore important that you consider your options and seek independent legal advice tailored to your personal circumstances as once you have received your decree absolute you cannot remain in your marriage unless you remarry.

Can a Decree Absolute be granted without a financial settlement?

Yes, a decree absolute can be granted without a financial settlement. This is because both a divorce and financial settlements are seen as separate issues. Whilst the decree absolute deals with the termination of the marriage, a financial settlement on the other hand deals with ending financial ties between a husband and wife and deciding what each spouse obtains.

It is therefore advisable to not to apply for a decree absolute until you have resolved your finances and reached a settlement. The decree absolute can affect your entitlement to certain assets of the marriage.

This is particularly the case for pension funds, trust funds and other complicated assets. Such assets cannot be transferred to anyone except a spouse. If you have obtained a decree absolute you are not legally married and will therefore lose your entitlement to such assets.

Quite often one of the partners may want to obtain a decree absolute at the earliest opportunity in order to try and remarry. However, remarrying could also cause you to lose some or all of your rights to claim from your former spouse. In the event that you fail to reach an agreement on your finances and one partner dies then the surviving partner will lose out on any automatic spousal benefits that would have been made.

There may also be other potential financial implications if you obtain a decree absolute prior to resolving your finances. There could be tax charges on the transfer of assets where there would have been no charges had you remained married. Our family specialists therefore advise that it may be beneficial to delay your application for the delay absolute and remain married until you can either agree your finances or obtain a court financial order. If you would like more assistance on resolving your finances and obtaining a decree absolute then contact our family specialists who would be able to provide you with professional, independent, impartial and tailored advice to suit your particular situation.

A checklist once the decree absolute is granted.

Although you have obtained your decree absolute you may feel relieved, however there are still a number of matters which will need to be considered. Family law specialists have compiled a helpful checklist to consider once your decree absolute has been granted.

  • If you have any children from the marriage, you should update your children’s school of the divorce. This would allow schools to monitor your children and provide extra support if needed.
  • You should consider changing your will if your will provides for your former spouse or refers to them. Any provision for a former spouse will usually fail upon divorce unless the provision is to last past the decree absolute. If you are considering remarrying any will made before remarriage will also be invalid.
  • Have you applied for a new passport with your new details? This is quite often useful if you are the wife and want to ensure you are now correctly referred to your single status rather than as Mrs.
  • You should also close any joint bank accounts you hold. As you are no longer married it may not be wise to continue holding joint bank accounts.
  • You may need to consider changing personal on any remaining bank accounts and credit card accounts. The process for changing these details varies as some banks may happily make changes to your accounts over the phone, whereas others may request a meeting a supporting documentation which may include your decree absolute.
  • If you co-owned your matrimonial home and had a mortgage, it is also important to inform the mortgage provider of a change in your details. This is very important as the bank will need to know which partner will be responsible for the property and the mortgage payments.
  • You may also need to apply for a new driving licence which contains your correct information. Again, this is important as failing to update your details could lead to issues with insurance or should you need to provide documents to the police.
  • You should also consider updating and amending details on any insurance policies you hold. This applies to motor insurance policies, household insurance policies and life insurance policies. Failure to update your information could void your insurance.
  • You should also consider notifying the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) of your new situation and details. It is extremely you consider doing this at your earliest convenience to ensure you receive your private and confidential documents and financial notifications.
  • You should consider contacting your local benefits office. Following the receipt of your decree absolute and termination of your marriage you may be able to claim benefits which were previously not an option due to you being in a marriage.
  • Consider resigning from any businesses or assets in which you previously had an interest and do not do so now. This will ensure that the event of something going wrong you will not be considered liable.
  • Finally, you should update your contact details on utility bills. You should also notify your family and friends of your new contact details.

— Q&A SECTION —

Can I apply for a decree absolute even though my partner initiated divorce proceedings?

It is worth noting that both the applicant and respondent can make an application for a decree absolute. If you are a respondent to divorce proceedings then a decree absolute example is where your partner has failed to make an application for a decree absolute and the 43 day time limit following the receipt of decree nisi has lapsed. You can contact our family law specialists who can assist you as a respondent in making an application of decree absolute in order to finalise your divorce. This will take place 3 months after the applicant could have first made an application for a decree absolute.

Can a decree absolute be granted before the 43 day limit set by the court?

Yes, a decree absolute can be granted earlier than the 43 days have lapsed after a decree nisi is granted. In exceptional circumstances the court may agree to dissolving the marriage earlier. An example of such urgency can be where a party urgently needs to remarry due to an arrival of a baby. If you have exceptional circumstances and would like to shorten the period between the decree nisi and decree absolute then contact our divorce law specialists who would be happy in exploring this option with you and guiding you through the process.

Our family law experts in York, Manchester or London can assist you with your queries regarding a decree absolute. We help clients nationally and should you require assistance please contact our specialists on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back.

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Fulham
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NN1 2JA

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