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Understanding the No Fault Divorce Law Process in England and Wales: What is a Final Order?

What is a Decree Absolute and a Final Order?

On 6th April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (commonly referred to as the ‘no-fault divorce’ law) heralded significant changes to divorce laws in England and Wales. One of these changes saw the introduction of the ‘Final Order’, which replaced the old ‘Decree Absolute’. If you are unsure how the new divorce law process works, you are not alone. In this article, we will explain how the Final Order fits into the updated divorce law system, the significance of Final Orders, and how long it takes to receive a Final Order. 


What is a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute?

The Final Order, which replaces the older Decree Absolute, marks the final stage of the divorce process.  Upon receiving your Final Order from the court, you are officially divorced. Additionally, the 2022 divorce law changed  the ‘Decree Nisi’ with the ‘Conditional Order’. 

When is a Final Order issued by the court?

Final Orders are issued by the courts at the end of the divorce process. It normally takes at least 6 months from the date of the application to when the Final Order is issued.

To reach the Final Order stage, there are three main steps:

1.    Apply for divorce - Once an application for divorce has been filed and the correct fee paid, the court will then check the contents and send a notice that it has been issued (to one or both parties).

2.    Apply for a Conditional Order - There is then a 20-week “cooling off” period, which must pass before you can apply for a Conditional Order. A Conditional Order effectively means that the court can see no reason why you cannot divorce.

3.    Apply for a Final Order - Once the Conditional Order has been issued, you then have to wait another 43 days before you can apply for a Final Order, which will bring your marriage or civil partnership to an end.

Your divorce law Solicitor will guide you through the no-fault divorce process, ensuring that your legal and financial interests are protected at each stage.

Divorce Certificate: What Does a Decree Absolute Look Like?

A Final Order, much like the old Decree Absolute, is simply a one-page divorce or dissolution certificate. It includes the names of both parties, the date that the Conditional Order was granted, the date that the Final Order was issued, and the court’s official stamp. The Final Order is proof that your marriage or civil partnership has now officially ended, and you are free to marry again in the future.

How Long After Decree Nisi Are You Divorced?

The certificate will indicate the time and date when you will be granted a Conditional Order (formerly known as the Decree Nisi). Even after the Conditional Order has been granted, you will still be legally married. You must wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the granting of the Conditional Order before you can apply to finalise the divorce and legally end the marriage.

Why Consult a Divorce Law Solicitor?

While a Final Order marks the legal end of a marriage, reaching this point can be complex and challenging. There are several important reasons to seek the help and support of a family divorce Solicitor in England and Wales at the start of the divorce process:

·         Expert Guidance - Your divorce law solicitor will explain the process, timeline, and paperwork required based on your unique circumstances.

·         Financial Arrangements – In addition to reaching an agreement on child arrangements, it is also important to finalise a divorce financial settlement. Your Solicitor will explain your legal rights to marital and non-marital property and ensure that you receive a fair settlement that will allow you to move on with your life. Where possible, they will help you reach a clean break, meaning that you become financially independent of your ex-spouse. If negotiation or mediation does not prove effective, your Solicitor will help reach a favourable settlement order through the courts (called a consent order).

·         Child custody – If you and your ex have children together, your divorce law Solicitor will guide you through reaching a Child Arrangement Order that works for everyone. This will set out where your child will live and who they will spend time with.

·         Legal protection - Even in the most amicable of divorces, it’s easy to miss important details. Your divorce solicitor will ensure that your rights are protected at each stage.

·         Reassurance and support – There is no avoiding the fact that divorce is emotionally taxing. Your Solicitor will be on hand to offer guidance and practical advice during this tough time.

Final words

In April 2022, The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020 replaced the Decree Absolute with the Final Order in England and Wales. It also introduced key divorce process reforms, including removing the need to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Working with a family law solicitor will ensure that your divorce proceeds as smoothly as possible while protecting your best interests and giving you peace of mind as you move forward with the next stage of your life.

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have a highly experienced family law team who can assist you with all relationship matters. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.



28 May 2024
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