Decree Nisi: What it is and how to Get One

A divorce can’t just happen right after deciding that you no longer want to be married. There are multiple stages to ending a marriage. One of those is the decree nisi stage.

This is a provisional declaration of divorce. After you get your decree nisi, your divorce is not concluded or official yet.

If you’re at the beginning stages of getting divorced, you’ll need to know what the decree nisi is and how to get one.

What is a decree nisi?

Decree nisi is a Latin phrase that means ‘rule unless’. It’s a court order that means your divorce will become official at a later date, unless certain conditions are met.

A decree nisi being granted means that the court does not see any reason you can’t get divorced.

This happens after you have applied online or by post for your divorce. If your husband or wife agrees to get divorced and does not want to prevent it – known as defending it – you can apply for your decree nisi.

You’ll still be married after the court has granted your decree nisi. And you’ll then have to wait 43 days before you can apply for your decree absolute.

This is effectively a cooling off period. You and your partner can use this time to decide if you definitely want to get divorced.

If you’re dissolving a civil partnership rather than ending a marriage, there will still be the same stages involved – but these go by different names. Instead of a decree nisi, you’ll need to get a conditional order. And rather thana decree absolute, you’ll need a final order.

How to get a decree nisi

To apply for a decree nisi, you should first read the guidance provided by the government. This will help you work out what to do if your spouse says they will either defend or not defend the divorce.

If they don’t plan to defend the divorce, you can go on to apply for your decree nisi. But if they do defend it, your solicitor will be able to help you decide on the best course of action. If you’re getting divorced and need a specialist divorce lawyer, just get in touch. First4Lawyers could match you to an expert solicitor.

At the decree nisi stage of your divorce, you’ll need to state the reason for your divorce. You will have to submit a D80 form in support of your application. The specific D80 form you submit will be relevant to one of the five facts you can use. These are:

  • Adultery

This is when you or your spouse has had a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex outside of the marriage.

  • Desertion

This is when your husband or wife has left you. You must have been living apart for two years to use this fact.

  • Five years’ separation – contested

When your spouse does not agree to the divorce, you can end the marriage if you have lived apart for at least five years.

  • Two years’ separation – uncontested

If you both agree to the divorce and don’t want to use another reason, you can apply for your decree nisi if you’ve lived separately for at least two years.

  • Unreasonable behaviour

The most common fact used in divorces, this covers behaviour such as addiction, abuse, debt or infidelity that does not fall under the legal definition of adultery.

After the decree nisi

After your decree nisi has been granted, you can then apply for your decree absolute, which is the final document that legally ends your marriage.

It’s important to apply for the decree absolute within 12 months of your decree nisi being granted, or you’ll have to explain to the court why there was a delay.

Once your decree absolute is granted, your decree absolute will be sent to you or your solicitor. At this point, you are no longer married. You’ll need to keep hold of the document as you’ll need it to prove your divorced status if you want to remarry.

For help with your divorce, just talk to the team at First4Lawyers. Give us a call or make an enquiry online.

Disclaimer: This guide was published before the introduction of no-fault divorce legislation and some of the language used may no longer be relevant – mainly the use of the terms decree nisi and decree absolute. These have now been replaced by the terms conditional order and final order.


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