What’s the Difference between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute?

David Lister
David Lister
Partner, Head of Family Law

In England and Wales a Decree Nisi is a legal document that says the Court can’t see any reason why you can’t get divorced. A Decree Absolute is a separate document confirming your marriage is at an end and that you’re formally divorced.

However, this doesn’t end any financial commitments you may have with your ex, so you may need to delay applying for a Decree Absolute and obtain a Financial Order from the Court first. If you don’t get a Financial Order your former spouse could claim some of your wealth in the future, even many years after you got divorced.

For initial advice get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors.

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What is a Decree Nisi?

A Decree Nisi is a legal document stating that the Court accepts the reason given (grounds) for divorce and cannot see why a couple can’t end their marriage. You can apply for a Decree Nisi if your ex doesn’t defend your divorce petition. However, if they don’t agree to the divorce, you’ll have to discuss the case at a Court hearing, where a Judge will decide whether you should be granted a Decree Nisi.

What is a Decree Absolute?

The Decree Absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage. After a Decree Nisi has been granted, you have to wait for at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) before you can apply for a Decree Absolute to divorce. However, you have to apply for this within a year of getting the Decree Nisi, or you’ll have to explain your reasons for the delay to the Court.

Divorce Financial Order

As pointed out earlier, a Decree Absolute doesn’t void any financial commitments you may have with your former spouse. So if you want to make sure your wealth is protected both now and in the future, you’ll also need to apply to the Court for a Financial Order.

A Divorce Financial Order is a Court Order which outlines the financial arrangements between you and your ex and will be approved and issued by a Judge, after which the agreement becomes legally binding. Without a Financial Order in place, your former spouse could be able to stake a claim to some of your wealth, including money you’ve acquired after your divorce.

Can’t I Get a Quickie Divorce?

The lack of understanding of the differences between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute has fuelled the myth that people can get a so-called quickie divorce. So it’s worth stressing that when you read about a quickie divorce in the press, the article is only talking about how long it takes the couple to be given a Decree Nisi by the Court.

So even in these cases, the couple will still have to wait at least 6 weeks to get a Decree Absolute and formally end their marriage, and possibly even longer if a financial settlement needs to be reached.

Common Types Financial Orders in Divorce

Consent Order – To clarify how existing assets and debts should be split

Clean Break Order – To end you and your ex’s right to make financial provision claims against each other and cut all financial ties between you

Pension Sharing Order – To outline how each pension pot should be split, if you and your former spouse are entitled to a share of each other’s pensions

Property Adjustment Order – To establish what happens to the family home, such as who is entitled to live there and whose name the property should be held in

Maintenance Order – To set out how much spousal maintenance must be paid to the party in a weaker financial position, and for how long

Lump Sum Order – A Court Order requiring one party to give their ex a lump sum of money, possibly in exchange for something else, such as their family home.

Our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors can help you apply for applicable Court Orders.

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