What is a decree absolute? Step by step guide

Originally published on 9th January 2019 at 5:55 PM
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A decree absolute or form D36 is the final stage of a divorce process.

When you receive your decree absolute or final order certificate, it means that you are legally divorced or that your civil partnership has been dissolved. You are only able to apply for your decree absolute six weeks and one day after your decree nisi date.

No-fault divorce was introduced on the 6th of April 2022 and as part of the changes, the language used on the forms has been updated. The decree absolute is now called the final order, and the decree nisi is now called the conditional order, under the new sytem. If you're on the previous journey, your application and certificate will still be called the decree absolute.

In this blog, we are looking at the previous system and terminology, before the introduction of no-fault divorce. If you applied for your divorce after the 6th of April 2022, you can read our guide on applying for your final order here.

There are four steps you’ll need to complete in order to get a decree absolute, we have outlined them below:

Applying for a decree absolute

You can apply for your divorce or dissolution online or via post and for more information on this you can read our full guide on how to apply for divorce in England or Wales here.

Step one: The divorce/ dissolution petition (legal form is called ‘D8’)

To start the legal process of ending your marriage or civil partnership, you will need to submit a divorce/ dissolution petition to the court. Read our step-by-step on how to do this here.

Step two: The acknowledgement of service (legal form is called ‘D10’)

When the courts receive your petition (now called the divorce application) and court fee (you may be entitled to a discount on the £593 court fee), the other person will receive a document through post. If you have applied online then they will receive a letter with login details so that they can acknowledge that they have received the petition online. If you have posted your divorce petition to court, they will need to fill in the form sent to them and return it to the owning court.

Step three: decree nisi stage (legal forms are referred to as a ‘D84’ and ‘D80’)

Decree nisi is the stage where a judge will review your petition and decide if agree that the marriage/civil partnership has broken down past the point of repair. You can read about how to apply for your decree nisi application here. If the judge approves the petition, you will receive a letter stating your ‘decree nisi pronouncement date’.

Your decree nisi pronouncement date allows you to proceed with the following:

  • At this point, if you have finances to sort out, you can submit your consent order to the court for a judge to review. A consent order is a legally binding document that formalises your financial split and ends future claims.
  • The countdown for when you are able to apply for the decree absolute starts. Couples must wait six weeks and one day after their decree nisi pronouncement date before they can submit their application for the decree absolute. See this as a cooling-off period, it’s your final chance to reconsider whether the relationship is definitely over.

Step four: decree absolute (legal form is referred to as a ‘D36’)

Once you have waited six weeks and one day after your decree pronouncement date you can apply for the decree absolute. If you've applied for your divorce by post, it usually takes the courts around two weeks to send you the decree absolute certificate. If you have applied for your divorce online it will take one to two days (subject to court processing times).

How to fill in the decree absolute form (D36 form)

If you have applied for your divorce by post, then the below steps will help you fill out your decree absolute. The decree absolute application form (also called the D36 form) is the most straightforward form in the divorce process. You will need to fill in all the details including:

  • The name of the court that you’re processing the divorce/dissolution through (you can find details of this on other paperwork, for example your decree nisi paperwork
  • The case number (again this can be found on the other documents received from the court)
  • Name of the petitioner (the person who started the process)
  • Name of the respondent (the other person)
  • Name of the co-respondent - only relevant if you’ve used adultery as the reason for divorce and have chosen to name the other person
  • You’ll then need to indicate if the petitioner or respondent is applying for the decree absolute
  • The ‘decree nisi’ refers to your decree nisi pronouncement date - you can find this on your decree nisi certificate
  • Make sure the document is signed and that the date is at least six weeks and one day after the decree nisi pronouncement date

Want to know more about the divorce process?

How do you get a copy of the decree absolute (D36) form?

If you applied for your divorce online, then you will receive an email when you can apply for your decree absolute. If you applied via post, then you can download a copy of the decree absolute form below:

What does the decree absolute certificate look like?

If you have applied for your divorce online, then the decree absolute certificate will look slightly different to the paper example below:

Decree Absolute Certificate

How much does a decree absolute cost and how to get a copy?

This depends on how you manage the entire process. For more information on the different ways to divorce and how much they cost, see our article on the cost of divorce.

If you’ve lost your decree absolute certificate and need a new one, you can either contact the courts or ask whoever managed your divorce/ dissolution for a new copy. You may need to pay a small administrative fee to get a new copy.

The divorce process above usually takes around four months to complete if you aren't applying for a financial remedy order. If you’re unsure about any of the above, get in touch as one of our experts will be happy to talk you through the process.


What does decree absolute mean?

This is the final part of the divorce process and once you receive your decree absolute certificate from the court, your divorce is complete.

How does decree absolute work?

You will need to apply for your decree absolute certificate after the six weeks and one day cooling-off period from your decree nisi pronouncement date.

What is difference between Decree Nisi and decree absolute?

The decree nisi is the middle stage of the divorce process where the judge reviews your petition and decides whether you're entitled to a divorce. The decree absolute is the final stage of the divorce process where the court complete your divorce. You need a copy of your decree absolute certificate in order to prove that you are divorced.

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Comments (10)

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17.06.2019 23:17

Hi I want to ask something about my civil partnership end I want to dissolved my civil partnership but we are live some address but we are not living as a couple and we both of agree for end of marriage

15.07.2020 11:33

Can you get copies of old divorce records going back to 1945-1948? Regards Robert

Lilly Amorelli
17.08.2020 17:17

My DA says D37 on the bottom, right hand corner. Is that correc?

08.08.2021 18:49

Hi can you please advise if there is a fee to pay when submitting an application for decree nisi to be made absolute Thank you

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Holly from amicable
13.08.2021 14:09

Hi Joanne, no there shouldn't be a fee to pay when you submit your decree absolute application. Usually there is the initial court fee (£550) which covers the Court processing of the Divorce Petition, Decree Nisi application and Decree Absolute application. Any additional application may incur extra court fees (such as a consent order of D11 application).

24.08.2021 19:13

Hi, I thought I was divorced but it turns out I have not had a decree absolute. My ex started divorce proceedings back in 2007 but never got beyond the nisi. What can I do?

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Holly from amicable
03.09.2021 11:44

Hi Martyn, if you received the decree nisi certificate ie. your decree nisi was granted, you as the Respondent should be able to apply for the decree absolute yourself, as over three months would have passed since the decree nisi was granted. Give us a call if you need any help doing this.

06.09.2021 13:24

I was divorced on 8th December 2016 as the petitioner paid for the divorce at the family court in Stoke-on-Trent West Midlands Divorce Unit 5 years ago how do I the respondent apply for a decree absolute and do I need to pay a fee for the decree absolute?

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Holly from amicable
28.09.2021 10:08

Hi Josephine, if your divorce was finalised and you are looking to get a new copy of the decree absolute certificate, you will need to contact the court on 0300 303 0642. You will need to cite your case number, and they should be able to have a new copy posted to you, however you may need to pay around £10 for them to do this. I hope that helps!

Zibusiso Ndlovu
29.11.2022 6:28

I am the respondent and have received the decree nisi. My ex has made an application for a financial settlement but will not apply for the decree absolute until this is finalised. My worry is the financial settlement will take more than a year to finalise and by then 12 months will have lapsed since the decree nisi was issued. Can I as the respondent go ahead and apply for the decree absolute successfully even though the financial settlement is not in place yet?