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All about the Conditional Order Divorce

What is a Conditional Order divorce?

A Conditional Order is a legal document issued by the Court that says you are entitled to a divorce of your marriage, or a dissolution of your civil partnership.

What is the difference between Decree Nisi and Conditional Order?

Prior to April 2022, the Conditional Order was called a Decree Nisi.

Following the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 which came into force in April 2022, the terminology used in divorce law was updated and replaced with simpler terms. For example, the previous terms of “Decree Nisi” and “Decree Absolute” were replaced with “Conditional Order” and “Final Order” respectively.

Both the Conditional Order and Decree Nisi serve the same purpose; they are the legal documents in the middle stage of the legal process of divorce or dissolution which confirms the Court does not see any reason why you cannot end your relationship.

Why do you have to wait 20 weeks for a Conditional Order? 

The 20-week period applies equally to cases of divorce, and to dissolution of civil partnerships. 

The essence of the 20-week period in the process is that a Court cannot make a Conditional Order until the applicant, or in the case of joint applicants, confirm to the Court that they want their application for divorce or dissolution to continue. An applicant or joint applicants cannot provide this confirmation until at least 20 weeks have elapsed since the start of the proceedings. The 20-week period starts from the date the divorce/dissolution application is officially issued by the Court.

The purpose of the 20-week period is to reduce conflict and to ensure the decision to end a marriage or civil partnership is a considered one. The 20-week period allows a separating couple time to reflect, consider their situation, receive legal advice, and potentially turn back the process. The 20-week period is often referred to as the 20-week reflection period or the “cooling-off” period.

What is the first order of divorce? 

The first order of the divorce or dissolution process is the Conditional Order.

The stages of divorce in simple terms are as follows:

Stage 1 – The application for Divorce or Dissolution where the applicant or applicants are required to confirm that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

Stage 2 – Responding to the application and the start of the 20-week reflection period.

Stage 3 – After 20 weeks have elapsed the Conditional Order can be applied for and pronounced by the Court.

Stage 4 – A further waiting period of at least 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) after the Conditional Order has been granted before the Final Order can be applied for to finalise the divorce or dissolution.

Stage 5 – The Final Order (previously called Decree Absolute) which legally ends the marriage or civil partnership.

Is there a hearing for the Conditional Order?

The process for the pronouncement of the Conditional Order all takes place by correspondence. Once a Judge is satisfied that the applicant or applicants are entitled to a divorce or dissolution, a “Certificate of Entitlement” will be pronounced which will state the date the Conditional Order will be pronounced at Court. There is no need for either party to attend the hearing and the actual Conditional Order document will be issued a few days after the hearing.

How long after a Conditional Order are you divorced?

You need to wait at least 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) after the Conditional Order is granted before you can apply for a Final Order to finalise the divorce or dissolution. The Final Order used to be called the Decree Absolute.

Can a divorce be stopped after the Conditional Order?

Even after a Conditional Order has been granted, a divorce or dissolution can be stopped.

It is possible to withdraw an application for divorce/dissolution and an application for a Conditional Order. If the application is made jointly, both parties will need to provide their written consent to the Court for the application to be withdrawn.

If the application is made by a sole applicant, it is possible for that party to withdraw their application before the other party is served. If the application has already been served, then the party that applied for the divorce/dissolution can apply to the court to dismiss the divorce/dissolution application. 

What is the Final Order in a divorce?

The Final Order is the last legal document in the divorce or dissolution process, and it is the document that formally ends your marriage or civil partnership. Once a Final Order is made you are no longer married or in the civil partnership.

What is the difference between a Conditional Order and a Final Order?

The Conditional Order is a document that confirms the applicant or applicants have met the legal criteria and requirements to be entitled to a divorce or dissolution. A Conditional Order does not finalise the divorce or dissolution.

The document that finalises the divorce or dissolution is the Final Order. The Final Order is the final stage of the divorce or dissolution process.

In order to legally be able to remarry you must obtain a Final Order. You can remarry as soon as the Final Order has been granted.

What is the 20-week cooling off period?

The 20-week cooling off period is the same as the 20-week reflection period referred to above. It is the mandatory period of time that an applicant or joint applicants must wait from the start of the divorce or dissolution proceedings before they can apply for a Conditional Order.

How long does a divorce take from start to finish in the UK?

The absolute minimum time for a divorce or dissolution in the UK is 26 weeks. This takes into account the 20-week reflection period and the 6 weeks waiting period between the Conditional Order and Final Order. It is however rare to achieve a divorce or dissolution in this timescale as it does not include times for service or Court waiting times. A more realistic timescale is 30-35 weeks.


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