Can I delay my Decree Absolute during a divorce to settle my finances

Posted on 13th July 2020

When divorce proceedings begin, your finances are of the utmost importance, when it comes to how your case is handled. Your bank accounts may be linked. You may both be on the same house deed. Or you might have relied on your partner for financial support during your marriage.

This can be troubling, if the person starting the divorce is looking to apply for a Decree Absolute to finalise it.

We explain whether it is possible to halt an application, in order to settle your finances and protect your future.

What is a Decree Absolute?

A Decree Absolute is a legal document that officially ends a marriage by law. It confirms a divorce and is the final Decree or Order of the Court.

You can apply for a Decree Absolute 43 days, six weeks and one day, after the date of Decree Nisi. This can be done after the application has been made by the Petitioner, who is the person who started the divorce proceedings.

How could an application affect my finances?

If the Petitioner fails to apply for Decree Absolute within this timeframe, then the Respondent can apply for the Decree Absolute three months after the 43 days. The divorce can be finalised before all financial matters are resolved or even before they have started. However, this is not something we would advise.

The strong and clear advice is that if there are any financial matters that need to be resolved, you should delay getting a Decree Absolute, even if you are mid proceedings. This is to ensure that your spousal rights are protected, as a Decree Absolute of Divorce dissolves the marriage and you are no longer a “spouse”.

Why would I want to delay an application?

An example where one party may want to delay applying for a Decree Absolute would be where there would be difficulties in claiming under a pension scheme. You might also want to postpone getting one if you may lose certain rights. This could be losing widow or widower’s rights after death, to claim as a spouse, for instance.

A Decree Absolute is likely to be granted, unless the party opposing it can show that there are “special circumstances” to delay the application. This could be if there are financial matters that are still yet to be determined, though this depends on the circumstances of every case individually.

Take the landmark case of Thakkar v Thakkar, from 2016. Here, the Respondent Husband made an application for a Decree Absolute, as his wife made it clear she would not be doing so, until all financial matters were concluded. The judge subsequently dismissed the husband’s application. This was because the wife was able to show that she would be heavily impacted financially, if a Decree Absolute was granted.

In what situation could I delay a Decree Absolute?

If the party that is seeking to delay a Decree Absolute can show that they would suffer a financial penalty if it were granted, then this may be enough to delay.

It is good practice to agree with the other party at the beginning of proceedings that an application for a Decree Absolute will not be made, until all financial matters are resolved. This can be done in two ways.

Either by way of a Consent Order, which is an agreement between the parties, or a final Order of the Court, granted after a final hearing or trial. It is at this point you will apply.

How quickly are Decree Absolutes processed?

They are normally granted quickly by the Courts. You will usually receive a Decree Absolute within 24 hours, if you applied online. If you submitted your request through the post, this can take up to 10 days.

If you are undergoing divorce proceedings and need sound legal advice, visit our family law page for more information about the services we offer.

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