Contact Us

The Difference Between Conditional Divorce Order and Final Divorce Order

In England and Wales, the process of divorce involves several stages, each marked by specific legal decrees. Two of the most critical milestones in this journey are the Conditional Divorce Order and the Decree Absolute. These decrees play distinct roles in the divorce process, and understanding their differences is essential for anyone navigating the complexities of family law in this jurisdiction.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA 2020), which came into force on 6 April 2022, replaced the terms Decree Nici and Decree Absolute with Conditional Divorce Order and Final Divorce Order to make the language of the divorce process friendlier and easier to understand. However, the terms Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute continue to apply if the Court issued your divorce application before 6 April 2022.

What is a Conditional Divorce Order

A Conditional Divorce Order is the initial legal step in formalising a divorce in England and Wales.  

The divorce process begins when one or both spouses filing for divorce. To get divorced under the DDSA 2020, the petition only needs to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is no longer any requirement to cite grounds such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. In addition, if you are filing for divorce as an individual, your spouse cannot refuse to allow the process to continue (this was formally known as ‘defending’ a divorce.

After receiving the divorce application from the Court, you must wait a minimum of 20 weeks before you can apply for a Conditional Divorce Order, which is essentially a provisional approval of the divorce. The Court will review your application, which can be submitted online or by post, and if the Judge agrees (which is almost certain), the Court will send you and your spouse a certificate. This will tell you the time and date the Conditional Divorce Order will be granted. A Conditional Divorce Order does not end the marriage, for that, you must wait at least six weeks and one day and apply for and obtain a Final Divorce Order.


What is a Final Divorce Order?

The Final Divorce Order is the conclusive legal decree that officially dissolves the marriage. You can apply for a final order as a sole applicant, even if you started the divorce process jointly with your husband or wife. 

To obtain a Final Divorce Order, you must apply to the Court. A waiting period of six weeks and one day applies from the date the Conditional Divorce Order was granted.

Once the Final Divorce Order is approved, the marriage is officially terminated and both parties are free to remarry.


Can the Court refuse to grant a Final Divorce Order?

Only in extremely limited circumstances. One instance where the Court may refuse to grant a Final Divorce Order is in situations where the English and Welsh courts do not have the jurisdiction to deal with the divorce. Another rare scenario is where evidence is presented that determines the marriage to be invalid. If you instructed an experienced Family Law Solicitor at the beginning of the divorce process it is unlikely that you will find yourself in this type of situation.


Can a Final Divorce Order be reversed?

Unfortunately no. If you and your ex-spouse get back together it will be as an unmarried couple. However, this provides a wonderful reason to get have another wedding day should you choose to remarry.



In the context of family law in England and Wales, Conditional Divorce Orders and Final Divorce Orders serve distinct purposes in the divorce process. The Conditional Divorce Order represents the Court's acknowledgment that the divorce can go ahead. It does not change the marital status or allow for remarriage. On the other hand, the Final Divorce Order dissolves the nuptials, allowing both parties to remarry should they wish to do so.

Understanding these differences is crucial for people going through a divorce, as each order carries its own legal and practical implications. A Divorce Law Solicitor can provide valuable guidance and ensure that the divorce process proceeds smoothly, and your best interests are protected.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have an experienced family law team who can assist you with your divorce or civil partnership dissolution. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.

22 May 2024
Image News