What is a Conditional Order in divorce in England & Wales?
The conditional order confirms that you’re entitled to divorce under English and Welsh law and represents the middle stage of the legal process of divorce. As of the introduction of No-fault divorce in England & Wales on the 6th of April 2022, couples can get divorced without needing any grounds for divorce. Divorces aren’t automatic and there are several stages to legally ending your marriage. The conditional order was formerly known as the decree nisi in the previous system. We have outlined the legal steps required for a divorce to be finalised.
You can find our full guide to No-fault divorce here or you can speak to one of our experts if you have any questions.
Step by step guide on how to apply
Step one: Apply for the divorce
You will need to submit either a joint or sole application for divorce. The court will check this and if satisfied with the information you have provided, will issue your divorce application. Once issued, the mandatory 20-week reflection period begins and if you’ve applied solely, a copy of your divorce application is sent to your ex.
Step two: 20-week ‘cooling-off’ period begins
You must wait for the 20-week reflection period to elapse before progressing further. This period has been built into the divorce process to enable couples to adjust to the news and to make any financial or children arrangements.
Step three: Apply for conditional order
Once the 20-week reflection period has elapsed, and if you have applied jointly or if your ex has responded (for sole applications), you’ll be able to apply for conditional order, which is the middle stage of the divorce process.
Step four: The Judge has reviewed your application for divorce, conditional order is granted
The court reviews your application and if satisfied that you can get divorced in England & Wales and all the information you have provided is correct, then the court will provide your 'certificate of entitlement' (having received the certificate outlining your conditional order, divorce proceedings can advance). This will state the date your conditional order will be pronounced at court – though neither you nor your partner are expected to attend the court hearing. Once a judge has pronounced your conditional order, the 6-week waiting period starts on the same day.
Step five: Apply for a consent order (this step is not mandatory)
What happens after a conditional order has been granted is that you’ll be able to apply for a consent order. Many people are unaware that divorce alone doesn't end your financial relationship. To legalise your financial split and end the possibility of claims in the future you can submit a financial consent order to the court and have this granted by a Judge.
Step six: Apply for the final order
After the 6-week period has elapsed after the conditional order, you can apply for your final order. This was formerly known as the decree absolute and is the final stage of the process. Once granted (this takes 1-2 days), you will receive a final order certificate which confirms that your divorce has been finalised and you are free to re-marry if you wish.
How to apply for conditional order
If you started your divorce using the online system, you will be notified when you can apply for your conditional order. You will have to answer a few questions and tick the statement of truth box to confirm that you are being truthful in your answers.
If you posted a paper divorce application to the court, you’ll need to print off a paper conditional order application and post it to the owning court. The paper route typically takes longer; however, all divorces will take a minimum of 6-months to process under the new No-fault system due to the mandatory reflection periods.
Does a conditional order mean you are divorced?
No, once you have received a certificate of entitlement which is your approved conditional order, divorce proceedings continue. You have a 6-week period and then you can apply for your final order (previously called the divorce absolute). Once you have received your approved final order, then you are legally divorced.
How to long between conditional order and final order?
The bare minimum this can take is around 6 to 7 weeks as there is a 6-week period between when your conditional order is granted and when you can apply for a final order. However, this can be longer if you have applied for a consent order following your conditional order being granted (this is the earliest you can start the consent order process).
What is the difference between a decree nisi and a conditional order?
A decree nisi and a conditional order are essentially the same thing. When the conditional order was called the decree nisi, grounds for divorce (reasons for divorce) were still necessary to disclose within the conditional order. On 6th April 2022 – when no-fault divorce was introduced - the whole process changed from: Divorce Petition - Decree Nisi - Decree Absolute; to Divorce Application - Conditional Order - Final Order.
How long does a conditional order take?
Once the 20-week reflection period has finished, you can apply for a conditional order. The time between applying for a conditional order and receiving your certificate of entitlement is normally around 4-6 weeks but will depend on the courts processing capacity and when the pronouncement date is set.
If you want to end your financial relationship with your ex, a divorce alone doesn't cut your financial ties with one another. In order to legalise your financial split and end the possibility of claims in the future, you can submit a financial consent order to the court and have this granted by a Judge.
The podcast is hosted by Kate Daly, Co-founder of amicable. In the legal bit category of the podcast, Kate talks with a variety of experts to help you navigate the legal and financial process of divorce. It’s available on all your favourite listening platforms.
As of the 6th of April 2022, couples can divorce or end their civil partnership using a no-fault system that has replaced the previous 'fault-based' system. We have written a complete guide to using the new system which walks you through the steps you need to take.