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A guide to understanding your divorce final order

If you've reached the stage when your final divorce order has come through, read our guide on what this means.

12 April 2018

If you've reached the stage when your final divorce order, (previously known as the decree absolute), has come through, this means one important thing - your marriage is legally ended. The final order is the document that ends the union in the eyes of the law. However, there are some other things you need to know about divorce final orders.

How the divorce process works in England and Wales

The England and Wales divorce process has a number of key stages, starting with the following:

  • An application is filed by one partner or jointly as a couple following the no-fault divorce legilsation
  • After 20-weeks from application, the person referred to as the applicant can apply for a conditional order (previously named a decree nisi)
  • Whilst the option to contest a divorce no longer exists, the other partner does have the opportunity to defend the divorce if they wish. After issues are settled, the conditional order can be issued
  • After six weeks fo receiving the conditional order, the applicant can apply for the final order. Once this is issued, the marriage is legally ended

The conditional order and the final order - understanding the differences

Some people are confused between the conditional and final orders, and it isn’t unheard of for someone to think they’re legally divorced after the conditional order is granted.

The conditional order confirms that the relationship has broken down irretrievably and that the reason given for divorce has been accepted. Essentially, this order says that the court sees no reason why the couple in question shouldn’t be legally divorce.

A six week period of reflection is then imposed before the applicant(s) can apply for a final order.

The key difference between the two orders is that only the final order can legally end the marriage.

Applying for a final order immediately vs. delaying the application

Some people choose to delay applying for a final order, while others prefer to get the legal document to end their marriage immediately.

The main reason why an applicant may delay their application for a final order is because a financial settlement upon divorce has not been reached and made legally binding. If applying for a final order more than 12 months since the date that the conditional order was pronounced, the court will require an additional statement outlining the reason for the delay in applying to legally end the marriage.

Other reasons for delaying or postponing an application for a final order include:

  • Religious reasons - where a couple will need to arrange a religious divorce before they can finalise a civil divorce, and the two parties are unable to agree
  • One party dies before divorce proceedings are complete - in this circumstance, the surviving partner could be disadvantaged if a final order is in place but a financial order is not

As you can see, situations like these can become very complicated. Problems with the divorce process or disputes over finances can prevent both parties from moving on with their lives, as well as causing issues with money and childcare arrangements. In these cases, it’s always recommended to seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor who can advise on the best way to bring a resolution quickly and to the benefit of all parties.

How to apply for a final order

The process for applying for a final order is relatively straightforward. You simply need to complete and sign the relevant form and send it to the court office after the required six week period.

The final order will be read out in court, but usually neither party is required to attend the hearing.

Why choose Slater and Gordon for expert legal advice on divorce?

In April 2022, UK divorce law changed significantly and it’s vital you have an experienced divorce lawyer by your side to guide you through the process.

To clearly understand your options and next steps, simply contact us on 0330 107 4994 or contact us online.

All the above information was correct at the time of publication.

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