Decree Nisi - What does this mean in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

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The decree nisi is a vital part of the divorce process. In this insight, we’ll explain what a decree nisi is, when you can expect to receive it and where it fits into the divorce process as a whole.

Before discussing the decree nisi specifically, it is important to understand the very start of the  divorce process.

One party will begin the divorce process by filing a divorce petition. They are known as the ‘petitioner’. After the application has been checked, the other party will need to respond to the divorce application (the ‘respondent’). If they agree with the divorce, the next part of the process will be to apply for the decree nisi. As long as the court is happy that everything is OK with your paperwork, the decree nisi will then be pronounced in court.

You will not normally need to go to court in order to get your decree nisi. However, if your spouse does not agree with the divorce, it may be necessary to go to court to argue your case, so that a judge can decide whether or not to grant your decree nisi.


Definition of the decree nisi 

A decree nisi is a document from the court that confirms that you are able to end your marriage through a divorce.

It is important to note that the divorce is not final at the decree nisi stage. Obtaining a decree nisi does not mean that you are divorced. You are not free to remarry at this stage.

When you hear about ‘quickie’ divorces in the press, it is usually the decree nisi which has been obtained, not the final decree absolute.


The decree nisi and the financial settlement

After you have obtained your decree nisi, you can ask the court to make a binding order regarding your financial settlement.

The financial settlement is separate to the divorce process itself, but often runs in parallel to it.


After the decree nisi: what happens next?

You will have to wait at least 6 weeks and 1 day after the decree nisi is pronounced before you can apply for your decree absolute (the final element of the divorce process when the marriage is officially over).

In reality, the period of time between the decree nisi and the decree absolute is often longer than this, especially for high net worth individuals with international assets and investments, for whom the financial settlement can be much more complicated.

Usually, we say that the divorce process takes around 6 months but it can take much longer than this, especially if the financial settlement is not straightforward.

In order to avoid any delays in getting your decree nisi, it can be helpful to agree on the contents of the divorce petition beforehand, if possible. As always, it’s highly recommended that you seek legal advice specific to your circumstances, ideally before beginning the divorce process.


How can our expert divorce solicitors help you?

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to divorce, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on divorce

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

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Please contact us for more details.


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