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  • John Pratley

Where can I get a copy of my decree absolute?

The decree absolute you receive at the end of your divorce is an important legal document. But it must seem quite disappointing to some people. It is a simple piece of A4 paper with a few words and an explanatory note. In these cost-conscious days it is generally printed on poor quality paper and the court seal is really just a logo included in the print.

Your solicitor will send the original to you, and it is important to keep it safe because you will need it future situations not least if you want to remarry. But quite a lot of people seem to lose it. Solicitors receive requests for copies from time to time but we generally destroy our files after a few years, and as we move over to paperless working, the best we can supply would be some sort of image. That is not sufficient for most official purposes. You can ask the court office for a duplicate, at a cost, but that does not always work either.

In 2018 a Mr Power approached tried to get a copy of his decree absolute from the Willesden County Court as he wanted to remarry. It was issued in 1997, and it transpired that the court file had been destroyed, although the official policy is to keep key documents for 100 years. A central record of decrees is kept at the Principal Registry of the Family Division, and lists are sent periodically to the Office for National statistics, so they can produce information about rates of marriage and divorce. But there was no sign of this decree absolute anywhere.

Eventually he tracked down his former wife in Melbourne. She did not have the decree absolute either, but she had a “certified copy” that is to say a photocopy authenticated by a solicitor or notary at some stage. On that basis he was able to apply to the High Court where Mr Justice Mostyn made a formal declaration that he had, indeed, been divorced in 1997.

But the lesson is simple – make sure you keep your decree absolute in a safe place when you get it.

John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple tree family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.

We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.

First consultations are free.