How long does it take for a judge to grant a Decree Nisi?

In today’s fast-paced environment, we prefer to get whatever we want against a click of a finger. Additionally, with increased awareness of rights and obligations, there is a high ratio of married partners opting for separations or divorce litigations. Having such an increased ratio of separating couples and incremental stress arising to it from other family suites, the courts have also increased the time frame for granting divorce decrees based on the circumstance of married couples. 


It may be safe to infer that the time frame for the award of a divorce decree is primarily dependent upon couples themselves. Court these days, in order to facilitate the separating couples issue “decree nisi”, however, the question remain what is “decree nisi”?

What is a “Decree Nisi”?

“Decree nisi” may be termed as a court order that is due to take effect at a future date after meeting specific terms and conditions. The court issues Decree nisi purposefully to provide the aggrieved party with an opportunity to share proof or evidence that the adverse decision may not be taken. 

In literal terms Decree nisi may be classified as a show-cause notice to the aggrieved party for sharing the evidence so that the court may not issue a divorce decree. This term is commonly used in Common law jurisdiction under the United Kingdom. The mechanism adopted through decree nisi provides both the partner with an opportunity to reconcile their differences and come up with a swift solution for dispute resolution. 

After the failure of the other party in coming-up with a solution, the Decree nisi become Decree absolute automatically, which leads to the dissolution of a marriage between both the partners. 

Legal support and insertions

United Kingdom laws provide an in-depth procedure to be adopted by the court of law for the issuance of Decree absolute to dissolve a marriage. 

Following are amongst the legal support: 

Section 1(5) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 requires that “Every decree of divorce shall in the first instance be a decree nisi and shall not be made absolute before the expiration of six months from its grant”.

Section 9(1) allows any person (including the Queen’s Proctor) before the Decree is made absolute, to “show cause why the decree should not be made absolute because of material facts not having been brought before the court”. In England and Wales, the minimum interval between the granting of decree nisi and that of decree absolute was amended by the Family Law Act 1996.

The law provides a time frame that is to be considered by the court of law for converting a Decree nisi into a Decree absolute. As per practice, minimum of six weeks-time frames is required to be given by the court before issuing Decree absolute. Most of the court uses six weeks and one day before issuing the absolute with a purpose to avoid any complexities and an opportunity to both the parties in dispute resolution. 

Time frame and process flow

Generally speaking, the divorce process (up to the issuance of Decree absolute) comprises of four stages depending upon the case. All of the litigants are required to pass along these stages for issuance of Decree nisi that in turn leads towards the award of Decree Absolute. A brief over each stage and the estimated time frame is hereunder:

Stage-1 Submission of documents to the court

In this stage, the plaintiff is required to submit the divorce petition along with complete supporting documents. Additionally, the petition should also comprise of court fee. After completion of formalities, the court issues sets of the document, including “acknowledgement of service” form to both plaintiff and defendant (in this case, the other partner of marriage). In the majority of the cases, this stage takes around 4-6 weeks.

Stage-2 Submission of form to the court

Under this stage, the defendant is required to sign and submit the acknowledgement of service form to the court. This Submission signifies the spouse intent or willingness for divorce of marriage. Additionally, the Submission also acts as a receipt for acknowledgement of service form. The step involves around 2-4 week depending upon the case and expedition from both parties.

Stage-3 Submission of application Decree Nisi

After receipt of acknowledgement of service by the court, the application for Decree nisi is submitted. The application includes several documents including but not limited to statement in support. The court upon completion of all relevant documentation decided upon a hearing date wherein, the legal counsel of both plaintiff and defendant attends the proceeding and dispatch Decree nisi. The decree nisi comprises of the future date which court affix for dissolution of marriage in case if the defendant is unable to come up with concrete justification or reasoning to avert dissolution. Generally, courts provide a timeframe of six weeks and a day to both the parties to reconcile their differences and come up with a beneficial solution. The stage consumes around 8-10 weeks primarily depending upon the availability of hearing window of court.

Stage-4 Application For Decree Absolute

This stage is adopted after completion of a timeframe as mentioned in Decree nisi. The solicitor or legal council lodges an application with the learned court for issuance of Decree absolute. Once the court is issuing Decree absolute, marriage is deemed to become dissolved or void.

Once Decree absolute is being issued, the marriage stands dissolved, and no financial settlement or recourse between the separating parties may be undertaken at a later stage. Therefore, legal counsel or solicitors of both the plaintiff and defendants strives to identify and resolve financial matters between both the parties beforehand to avert any untoward situation after dissolving the marriages. 

Key Takeaway

In order to avert such situation, it is imperative that experienced and seasoned divorce solicitors or legal advisors are being engaged who could work-out a fruitful financial solution along with smooth and hassle-free transition for both the parties. Our legal team comprises of experienced campaigners who have an in-depth exposure to negotiate and deliver smooth financial solutions for both the parties. Additionally, we divorce solicitors aim to devise amicable solutions for their clients with the swift application of Decree absolute upon completion of Decree nisi timeframe.  

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