Every divorce starts with the petition. The person who instigates the divorce (the petitioner) must demonstrate that his or her marriage to the respondent has broken down irretrievably.

The decree nisi and the decree absolute follow the petition. They mark the final two formal stages in any divorce. Until the decree absolute is finalised, the couple remain married.


The petitioner must file certain documents at court. These are:

  • The petition
  • Acknowledgment of service form
  • Affidavit

Once the court is satisfied that this paperwork is in order and the petitioner is entitled to a divorce it will allocate a date for pronouncement of the decree nisi.


You can present a divorce petition after one year of marriage. Shortly after that you can obtain the decree nisi.


Yes. But contested divorces are rare. Usually the husband and wife try to reach an agreement on divorce before presenting a petition. Family law groups like Resolution promote non-confrontational divorce, working in a constructive way to settle differences over finances and arrangements for children.

Many firms of solicitors, including Brookman have signed up to Resolution’s Code of Practice. This means we focus on helping you balance financial and emotional costs with what you ultimately want to achieve.

If one spouse objects to a divorce – or some of the grounds mentioned in the petition – he or she can contest or defend the case. If this happens, legal costs will be higher and a judge will have to decide whether or not there are sufficient grounds to pronounce a decree nisi.

In one recent case, a Mrs. Tini Owens failed in her attempt to obtain a decree nisi. She had argued that her husband’s behaviour was unreasonable. The judge decided that the examples of behaviour she relied on to prove the marriage had broken down irretrievably were actually “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage”.

Mrs Owens has lost one appeal of this decision and may now appeal to the Supreme Court. The situation she finds herself in has been widely criticised and has increased calls for a reform of divorce law so that there is no need to prove the ‘fault’ of one party to the marriage.


Only in very rare circumstances. For example, if one party decides to contest the grounds for divorce or is seeking reimbursement of his or her costs from the other side you may be required to attend court.

This year the government is piloting a new online divorce service. It is hoped that this will result in a more efficient and streamlined divorce service from the courts.


The decree nisi is the intervening stage between the petition and the decree absolute. You are still married but once the decree nisi is in place the court can make a financial order at any time. Before the decree nisi the court can only focus on maintenance issues, not final settlement proposals in relation to pensions, the family home and other matrimonial assets.


A petitioner may apply for a decree absolute 6 weeks after the date of the decree nisi. If he or she does not apply, the respondent may do so three months after the expiration of this six-week period.


As with the decree nisi there is usually no need to attend court unless some matter of complexity or contention arises. Your legal adviser or the court will let you know if you need to attend.


Often people decide to reach agreement on financial matters before applying for the decree absolute. If the issue does become contentious and the petitioner does not take steps to convert the decree nisi into a decree absolute, the respondent may apply to the court for the decree absolute.

In these circumstances there is a presumption that the marriage should be brought to an end. The person seeking to delay the decree absolute must show special circumstances as to why the marriage should not be legally ended.


It does not happen often but it is worth highlighting that if one spouse dies between the decree nisi and decree absolute the divorce proceedings come to an end. The parties are still legally married. This means the surviving spouse is the legal widow or widower with all of the inheritance rights this entails.

If however a financial order has not been made before the decree absolute and one party dies before it is agreed, the surviving spouse will not be entitled to automatic inheritance rights and may lose out significantly on a financial settlement.  He or she would not have the same financial remedies available against the estate as he or she would have had if the financial proceedings related to the divorce had been continuing.

In other cases where finances are extremely complicated it may also be advisable to secure a settlement before proceeding to the decree absolute. This is because after the decree absolute it may not be so straightforward to extract interests from certain categories of asset. These were the circumstances in the 2016 case of Thakkar v Thakkar. The wife wished to postpone the decree absolute because there was a question over the extent of the husband’s assets, many of which were apparently held offshore. The court decided to use its discretion not to pronounce the decree absolute. If it did not do so, the wife would not have the same range of remedies available to her. In the words of the judge, “It can make a very real difference particularly in offshore jurisdictions whether a litigant is a wife or a former wife.”


Sometimes one party seeks to delay the decree absolute for no good reason or to cause disruption to an estranged husband or wife who just wants to get on with his or her life. Perhaps the individual simply won’t accept the marriage is finally over.

We would advise against this. It is likely to lead to more uncertainty and tension among all family members. In addition there could be substantial cost implications if the court decides one party is unreasonably seeking to prevent a decree absolute.


Once you have received your decree absolute you can remarry. At your wedding you will have to produce the sealed court document at the register office. It is not advisable to remarry before you have applied for a financial settlement because you will lose your ability to seek such an order. Even if financial discussions are ongoing any proposed agreement could be jeopardised by your remarriage.


These are terms connected to civil partnerships. ‘Dissolution’ is the term used for the ending of a civil partnership. ‘Conditional order’ is the equivalent to decree nisi, and ‘final order’ refers to that part of the civil partnership dissolution process marked by a decree absolute in divorce.

Got a question? Ask us now…

Kindly complete the form below to send an enquiry. Your message will be sent to one of our solicitors. Discretion is guaranteed.

Your Information

  • Consider including information such as: the name of your spouse (if relevant), the country you live in, the background to your problem.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Over 2000 FREE
consultations and counting…

Our free consultation can help you more clearly understand the legal issues relating your case and what your options are to move forward.

Request your free consultation

Or send us an enquiry

Today I had my free initial consultation with partner Henry Brookman over the phone. He had a clear understanding of my situation based on the info I provided in advance and provided me with sound advice and guidance to move forward. Many thanks.

Aug 2022   H. J.

Really appreciated Brookman's advice and support. Most lawyers charge extortionate fees just for an initial conversation but not Henry. Thanks for all your advice and time.

Jul 2022   Chloé

I had a consultation with the partner Henry Brookman. I can absolutely recommend him, he seemed knowledgeable, up to date and patient. I have found him to be straightforward in the answers he gives and down to earth. 100% recommended.

Jun 2022   Michael P

I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Henry Brookman. His advice came in promptly when solicited, and was excellent. He is a thoughtful and very professional lawyer. He understood perfectly well the issue I presented him with, and gave me excellent advice in a family law related matter.

May 2022   Philip Hands

From my first contact with the firm I was treated courteously and promptly. I was offered a pro bono meeting shortly after making contact. Mr Brookman is clearly a very experienced professional and in our meeting he gave me some well considered and objective advice about my rather complicated situation which spans more than one jurisdiction.

May 2022   Julian Peachey

I had an initial consultation with Henry Brookman regarding prenuptial agreements and found him to be very helpful and knowledgeable.

Mar 2022   Simon Brooks

I had a free telephone consultation yesterday with Gavin Yeung. He could not have been more helpful and reassuring as he calmly and patiently worked through my situation to provide me with clarity and piece of mind at a time it was really needed and emotions are running high.

Mar 2022   'K M'

I spoke with Aziz at Brookman Solicitors on the phone for an initial consultation and he is one of the friendliest lawyers I have met. He is clearly very experienced as he patiently explained me all the concepts and processes which are quite daunting for someone in my situation, and then focused on the actual questions I wanted to ask... I would highly recommend Aziz and Brookman Solicitors.

Feb 2022   'R'

I am grateful for Henry Brookman and his team for support they provided to me during very frustrating time of divorce. They respond promptly to any request. I felt more confident after I started the process with them. Henry listened carefully to me and took quick actions on my case. I highly recommend this team of real professionals even for non-UK citizens.

Feb 2022   Sezim Beksultanova

I had online consultation with the partner Henry Brookman today. I was very happy with the service. I found him to be very insightful, knowledgeable and provided sound advice, as well as being kind and patient. It was a very comfortable discussion and he sent an email detailing our discussion very quickly discussing in our meeting in depth. I am amazed by the service we got just from a free consultation. I would highly recommend these solicitors!

Jan 2022   Shirley Christopher

We spoke at length and at no point felt like he was rushing us and we felt very comfortable. After our discussion we were also quickly sent an email detailing everything we were discussing in our meeting in depth. I am amazed by the service we got just from a free consultation. I would highly recommend these solicitors!

Dec 2021   Tina

I was fortunate to spend an hour running through a few questions with Natasha Slabas. She was quick to grasp the points raised and proposed a sensible way forward. Would recommend

Dec 2021   Nick Powell

I cannot praise the professionalism and courtesy too highly. The advice given in a very complex divorce matter, was clear, concise, enlightening and inspiring.

Nov 2021   Mary Barn

I contacted Henry Brookman because of the complex international aspect of my divorce and I’m very glad I did... Henry took his time explaining all the pro’s and contra’s... I now have a much clearer view over the situation and feel more confident going forward. I’m very grateful for the excellent advice I’ve received and not feeling rushed during the meeting.

Nov 2021   'A B'

Talitha offers sound advice, asks the right questions and advises you with what you need to know not just what you want to hear. I have no hesitation in recommending her services.

Sep 2021   Anu Vidyarthi

Google Reviews
Ask A Question

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact us now, we can help you.

Enquire Now

Or call us on +44 (0)20 7430 8470