Orders in divorce: what are they and how long do they take?

Divorce is simply the legal process of going from married to unmarried. In civil partnerships, it is referred to as dissolution (for the purposes of this article, we refer to marriage, but the same process applies to the dissolution of civil partnerships).

Divorce has two key stages and, as of April 2022, these stages known as the conditional order (previously decree nisi) and the final order (previously decree absolute).

In this blog, I'll explain what the two divorce orders are and how long do they take.

Conditional order

The conditional order is an acknowledgement by the court that they see no reason why you cannot end the marriage. You remain married to your spouse at this stage. The final order is the order that legally dissolves and ends the marriage.

You can apply for a conditional order 20 weeks after you have made your initial application for divorce and your spouse has submitted the acknowledgement of service. You can then apply for the final order in divorce 6 weeks and 1 day after the conditional order has been pronounced.

This means that the minimum time it can take you to get divorced is 26 weeks and 1 day. However, it is common for divorces to take a lot longer than this. This is because it’s advisable to wait until financial matters are resolved before applying for the divorce final order. If they’re not resolved by the time of final order, then you may miss out on benefits that you may otherwise be entitled to in marriage.

For example, the stage of divorce that you have reached has significance in financial negotiations. From the date of the conditional order, any financial agreement that is reached between you and your spouse can be drafted into a consent order and submitted to the court for approval. Before that time, even if you reached an agreement on the finances, you won’t be able to submit it to the court.

It’s important that when you do reach agreement with your spouse (whether directly, through mediation, through solicitors or otherwise), that this is drafted into an order and submitted to the court for approval. Until you have that approved order of the court, your financial claims against one another remain open.

Final order

The final order is the second stage of divorce and is an order of the court that legally ends the marriage. It replaces your marriage certificate. You can apply for the final order 6 weeks and 1 day after the conditional order has been pronounced.

Since April 2023, most divorce applications are processed online so you should expect to receive an electronic copy of your final order. You should save an electronic copy of your final order into a safe place on your computer as well as printing a hard copy to store safely. It’s also advisable to email yourself a copy of the final order so that, even if your laptop were to break, you have an electronic copy available anywhere.

You may need a copy of your final order in divorce if you want to change your name, for example on your driver’s licence, your passport or with your banks.

Divorce affects the rights that you have as you are no longer married. This includes inheritance. During the marriage, if you do not have a will, then your spouse would automatically inherit from you under the intestacy rules and vice versa. This no longer applies once you are divorced. There may also be implications for your pension rights as you will no longer be entitled to any widow(er)’s pension under your ex-spouse’s pension scheme.

If you decide to get remarried after divorce, then any financial claims you have arising from the first marriage will automatically cease to be valid and you will not be entitled to ask the court to adjudicate on any financial claim you wish to make against your first spouse or approve a consent order (unless such an application is issued before your remarriage).

Because of the financial implications of divorce, you should ensure that you seek legal advice before making an application for final order in divorce. The family lawyers at Mills & Reeve are experienced in dealing with divorces and the financial matters that arise from it. If you need any advice, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

Posted by

Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.