What is a decree nisi?

10 Apr 2020


Getting divorced is a legal process that involves several stages. One of these is the granting of the decree nisi, a legal document recognising that you are entitled to a divorce. Getting the decree nisi is a necessary step but it’s not enough on its own – you will still be legally married when it is granted. Let’s take a look at what a decree nisi involves, how to get one, and what needs to happen next.

Decree nisi: Key points to note

  • Before applying for a decree nisi, the person asking for the divorce (the petitioner) must submit a to the Court. Their spouse (the respondent) must fill in a form called the Acknowledgement of Service form, and return it.
  • You don’t get a decree nisi automatically; the petitioner has to apply for it, using a D84 application form and a D80 supporting statement.
  • The decree nisi must be in place before a decision is made on how your assets and finances are divided up.
  • The decree nisi and decree absolute are two different stages of the divorce process. The decree nisi does not bring the marriage to a formal end. This only happens when the decree absolute is awarded.
  • When the decree nisi has been granted, you will have to wait a further 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) before you apply for the decree absolute.

How do I apply for a decree nisi?

The application process is straightforward. The petitioner should check that they fulfil all the criteria, and then fill in Form D84, available on the gov.uk website, which lets you apply to the Court for a decree nisi. You will also need to provide a supporting statement, D80A, B, C, D or E. The form you fill in will depend on which of the you are citing, the reason given on your divorce

The application will be reviewed by the Court and granted or rejected.

What information is required?

On the D84 application form you’ll need to tell the Court whether your divorce petition is undefended (your spouse agrees to the divorce) or defended (they don’t agree). If the respondent is contesting the divorce, you’ll need to use the form to apply for a Case Management hearing. When you do this, a judge will decide if your decree nisi can be granted.

On your supporting statement form, you will need to provide details of the grounds for divorce, and details to back up your claims.

How long does it take for a decree nisi to be approved?

Assuming your divorce petition is undefended, it usually takes 2-6 weeks for a decree nisi to be approved by the Court, however due to the recent Court backlog this can often take a lot longer and depends on the Courts timetable. When this happens, you will receive a letter called a Certificate of Entitlement, which confirms that you can go ahead with your divorce.

This is important, because it allows you to come to an agreement about your finances and how they will be divided when you are divorced. It also means that after 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) you (the petitioner) can apply for the decree absolute, which will formally end the marriage. Although, it is advisable to wait until you have dealt with the matrimonial finances before the decree absolute application is made.

How can a Solicitor help with a decree nisi?

Divorce is a difficult and stressful time, and a Solicitor can lighten the load by taking care of the legal side of the process. At Hepburn Delaney, our family law Solicitors are experts in divorce, and they can provide valuable support at every stage of the divorce process. For more information, contact us on 01442 218090 or email info@hepburndelaney.co.uk.