What is a Decree Absolute?

Dictionary entry for divorce on smart tablet
Originally published on 9th January 2019 at 5:55 PM

A ‘Decree Absolute’ or ‘form d36’ is the final stage of a divorce, or dissolution (if you have a civil partnership).

When you receive your Decree Absolute certificate, it means that you are legally divorced.


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Applying for a Decree Absolute

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

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 and court fee (check if you’re entitled to a discount on the £550 court fee here), the other person will receive a document through the post. They will need to fill in the form sent to them and return it to the 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. 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:

  1. 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 the legally binding document that legalises your financial split and ends future claims.

  2. 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 form. It usually takes the courts around two weeks to send you the Decree Absolute certificate.

How to fill in the Decree Absolute form (d36 form)

The Decree Absolute application form (also called the d36 form) is the most basic 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/conditional order’ 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


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What does the d36 form look like?

You can see an example of how the Decree Absolute application form (d36) looks below:


D36 Form - decree absolute application

What does the Decree Absolute certificate look like?

The Decree Absolute certificate is quite basic for such an important document. You can see an example of what it looks like below:


Decree Absolute Certificate

How much does a Decree Absolute cost?

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

How to get a copy of the Decree Absolute

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 fee to get a new copy.


The process above usually takes around three to fours months to complete. 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.

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About the author

Rebecca has a background in family law and has also been through her own divorce. Rebecca is fantastic at offering pragmatic advice and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the legalities around divorce and separation.


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