What dissolves a marriage in England is decree absolute in divorce. After decree absolute either former spouse is free to remarry. It is the final decree in a divorce.
The Petitioner (that is the person who issues the divorce petition) can apply for the decree absolute six weeks and one day after the date of decree nisi. If the Petitioner has not applied for the decree absolute four and a half months after the date of decree nisi then the Respondent (the other spouse) can apply for the decree absolute.
If the Petitioner applies there is no need to attend court. It is simply a matter of sending the application to the court. For the Petitioner there is no separate court fee to apply for decree absolute. Normally both parties will receive the decree absolute about 7/10 days later depending upon how busy the court is. In urgent cases it may be possible to have document issued on the same day as making the application by attending at the court and waiting for it.
If the Petitioner does not apply for the absolute then the Respondent may do so four and a half months after decree nisi. However, if the Respondent makes the application it is necessary to attend court and there is a hearing before a District Judge who will hear the application. For this reason it attracts a greater court fee which is currently £80. Also, for this reason it is not usually possible to get a decree absolute on the same day as making the application if the Respondent makes the application.
If the Petitioner has not made the application within four and a half months of decree nisi and the Respondent is thinking of making the application then he/she would be wise to take legal advice first. There may be good reason why the Petitioner has not made the application and, more significantly, the Petitioner may be in a position to insist that the Respondent does not have decree absolute. If that is the case then the Respondent’s application for it will fail and he/she will be ordered to pay the Petitioner’s wasted costs. These circumstances do not apply in every divorce and the Petitioner does need a good reason to be able to do this. However, these circumstances exist often enough for it to be sensible for a Respondent always to take legal advice if the final decree is being sought on the application of a Respondent.
One reason why the Petitioner may not have applied for decree absolute is because the financial issues arising from the marriage may not yet have been resolved between the Petitioner and the Respondent. That is not in itself sufficient to be a valid objection to the grant of decree absolute but circumstances may exist about the particular financial application which would justify an objection. This is why it usually needs the advice of a lawyer for a Respondent to be able to work out whether his/her application for it would succeed.
One final word of warning. Never arrange a wedding until you have decree absolute. Do not assume if you are the Respondent that the Petitioner will automatically apply for it six weeks and one day after decree nisi. The chances are that he/she will not. And do not assume if you are the Respondent that you will automatically obtain decree absolute four and a half months after decree nisi. You cannot be sure of that. Do wait until you have decree absolute before you arrange a marriage which is dependent upon being divorced. You can waste a great deal of money if you ignore this advice.