What is a Conditional Order in divorce?

What is a conditional order in England & Wales?

Originally published on 21st April 2022 at 10:24 AM

Reading time: 2 mins

The conditional order confirms that you are entitled to divorce under English and Welsh law and represents the middle stage of the legal process of divorce. As of the introduction of No-fault divorce in England & Wales on the 6th of April 2022, couples can get divorced without needing to blame each other in the legal process. Divorces aren’t automatic and there are several stages to legally ending your marriage. The conditional order was formerly known as the decree nisi in the previous system. We have outlined the legal steps required for a divorce to be finalised.

You can find our full guide to No-fault divorce here or you can speak to one of our experts if you have any questions.

Step by step guide on how to apply

Step one: Apply for the divorce

You will need to submit either a joint or sole application for divorce. The court will check this and if satisfied with the information you have provided, will issue your divorce application. Once issued, the mandatory 20-week reflection period begins and if you’ve applied solely, a copy of your divorce application is sent to your ex.

Step two: 20-week ‘cooling-off’ period begins

You must wait for the 20-week reflection period to elapse before progressing further. This period has been built into the divorce process to enable couples to adjust to the news and to make any financial or children arrangements.

Step three: Apply for the conditional order

Once the 20-week reflection period has elapsed, and if you have applied jointly or if your ex has responded (for sole applications), you will be able to apply for the conditional order, which is the middle stage of the divorce process.

Step four: Your conditional order is granted

The court reviews your application and if satisfied that you are able to get divorced in England & Wales and all the information you have provided is correct, then the court will provide your 'certificate of entitlement' (to a divorce). This will state the date your conditional order will be pronounced at court – though neither you nor your partner are expected to attend the court hearing. Once a judge has pronounced your conditional order, the 6-week waiting period starts on the same day.

As soon as you have received your conditional order certificate, you will be able to apply for a consent order. Many people are unaware that divorce alone doesn't end your financial relationship. In order to legalise your financial split and end the possibility of claims in the future you can submit a financial consent order to the court and have this granted by a Judge.

Step six: Apply for the final order

After the 6-week period has elapsed after the conditional order, you can apply for your final order. This was formerly known as the decree absolute and is the final stage of the process. Once granted (this takes 1-2 days), you will receive a final order certificate which confirms that your divorce has been finalised and you are free to re-marry if you wish.

How to apply for the conditional order?

If you started your divorce using the online system, you will be notified when you can apply for your conditional order. You will have to answer a few questions and tick the statement of truth box to confirm that you are being truthful in your answers.

If you posted a paper divorce application to the court, you will need to print off a paper conditional order application and post it to the owning court. The paper route typically takes longer, however, all divorces will take a minimum of 6-months to process under the new No-fault system due to the mandatory reflection periods.

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Anthony Syder
Anthony Syder
Anthony is a dispute resolution practitioner with experience across multiple sectors including family, employment and commercial. His areas of interest include the voice of the child, diverse and inclusive families and human rights. Anthony currently sits on the board of the Family Mediators Association and is a divorce coach and partnerships lead at amicable.

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