The Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute) is the legal document that ends your marriage. You need to wait at least 6 weeks after the date of the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi) before you can apply for the Final Order. This is in addition to the mandatory 20-week wait from the issue of the divorce application to the conditional order. The delay gives you a chance to discuss finances and other issues with your husband or wife before the marriage comes to an end, or even to reflect upon whether a divorce is the right decision for you.
In practice many lawyers advise their clients not to finalise the divorce until financial issues are resolved, as certain benefits may be lost if a Final Order is made, for example, a widow(er)’s pension.
But what if you require your Final Order as a matter of great urgency and cannot wait 6 weeks? In this scenario, it may be possible for you to make an application to court to shorten the time period between Conditional Order and Final Order. This is known as an application to expedite the Final Order and you will need to show the Court that the circumstances are exceptional.
These applications are fairly rare and examples include where someone is dying and wishes to be divorced before he/she passes away, or perhaps where a baby is due to be born and the parent wishes to remarry before the birth. In terms of procedure, will need to complete Form D11 (application form) setting out your reasons for the application in brief. You will need to attach a witness statement to the application form explaining the background to the application and all the relevant facts. You should attach any supporting evidence (medical evidence and so on) to your witness statement. You will then need to issue your application at court and there will be a Court fee payable. You will need to serve the application on your spouse.
If your spouse is not intending to attend court you will need to ask them to sign a letter indicating that they consent to the application. You should ask the court to list an urgent hearing to consider your application.
It pays to go to court well prepared and to have all the information at your fingertips. At the hearing the judge may ask you (if you are acting in person) or your solicitor/barrister to take them through the relevant facts and jurisdictional points. The question of the expedition is a matter of pure discretion and the relevant court rules are contained in Practice Direction 7A of the Family Procedure Rules 2010:
8.1 Where a party in an application for a matrimonial order has grounds for expediting the making of the final order, that party should ordinarily seek directions with a view to an early hearing of the case. Where such an application has not been possible, an application should be made to the district judge making the conditional order for the time between the conditional order and the final order to be shortened.
8.2 Where the need for expedition only becomes obvious after the making of the conditional order, or where (exceptionally) it arises in an undefended case to which the summary procedure applies, an application, on notice to the other parties to the proceedings, should be made using the procedure in Part 18 for an order shortening the time between the conditional order and the final order.
In conclusion, applications to expedite the Final Order are rare and you will need to show exceptional circumstances if you are to succeed in your application. It is highly likely that you will need to attend court as the court is unlikely to consider your application on paper.
A word of caution. Many people believe that once a marriage is ended that your rights to make financial claims against each other automatically at an end. This is not the case and it is not unusual for a former spouse to try to make financial claims many years after a divorce. It is important that you check your position. If in doubt consult a divorce lawyer.
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