What is a Decree Nisi in Divorce?

25 June 2019

The Decree Nisi is a document confirming that the judge agrees to the divorce. The Decree Nisi does not finalise the divorce, however it is an important step in the divorce process.

How to Reach the Decree Nisi Stage in Divorce

There are a number of steps to take before a divorce is finalised. Obtaining a Decree Nisi is one of those steps.

To reach the Decree Nisi stage, one person first needs to file a divorce petition with the Court setting out their reasons for divorce. This person is called the petitioner, and the other person is called the respondent. There are five facts that can be relied upon in a divorce petition to show the Court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The five facts for divorce are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for two years with the respondent's consent
  • Separation for five years

Once the fact has been established, the petitioner will file their petition with the Court along with the original marriage certificate and a Court fee. The Court will then send the respondent a copy of the petition and a form called the Acknowledgment of Service so they can confirm that they agree with the divorce. The respondent needs to return the Acknowledgment of Service to the Court to allow the divorce process to continue.

If the respondent states that they are not in agreement and intend to defend the divorce, they have 28 days to file a statement as to why they are defending. Sometimes a respondent will state on the Acknowledgment of Service that they are defending the divorce but do not follow this up with a statement. This may be due to a lack of legal representation.

If the respondent agrees to the divorce, the Court will then send a copy of the respondent's completed Acknowledgment of Service to the petitioner along with the application for Decree Nisi.

How to Apply for Decree Nisi

To make the application for Decree Nisi two forms need to be completed and filed with the Court:

  • An application for Decree Nisi
  • A Statement in support of the divorce

The application for Decree Nisi (or a conditional offer in a civil partnership dissolution) will be considered by a judge in open Court. This process is called 'pronouncement.' Both the petitioner and the respondent are informed of the date, time and location that pronouncement is due to take place. They are able to attend but this is only required if there's a dispute over who is paying the divorce costs.

If the judge is satisfied that the application has been correctly completed and that the petitioner has sufficient grounds for the divorce, then they will 'pronounce' the Decree Nisi. The petitioner and respondent will both then receive a paper copy of the Decree Nisi. This is essentially an Order from the judge to say that they agree to the divorce, however it is not the Final Order confirming that the divorce has concluded.

What Happens after Decree Nisi?

The Decree Nisi will state the exact date on which the judge pronounced the Order. The petitioner is then required to wait 6 weeks and 1 day before they make the application for Decree Absolute. This is the Final Order in a divorce.

The application for Decree Absolute consists of one form which is called a 'Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute.' This application then needs to be filed with the Court, and again will be pronounced by a judge. Once the Decree Absolute has been pronounced, this is the Final Order confirming that the divorce is now complete.

It's important to note, however, that while a Decree Absolute legally ends the divorce, it doesn't end the financial commitments between the couple. In order to sever financial ties, a Clean Break Order will also be needed.

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