The tabloid newspapers are full of news stories to the effect that TV presenter Anthony McPartlin, better known as ‘Ant’ of Ant and Dec, and his wife Lisa Armstrong are divorcing today. Unfortunately, the stories are incorrect. What is happening today is that their decree nisi is being pronounced at the Central Family Court in London.
The stories represent one of the common misconceptions about divorce. Along with the myth of the ‘quickie’ divorce, also often reeled off by tabloids, the idea that the parties are divorced when a decree nisi is pronounced is often repeated.
But the parties are not divorced when the decree nisi is pronounced. The pronouncement simply means that the court is satisfied that the party who applied for the divorce (usually the petitioner) has proved that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and is therefore entitled to the divorce after a further six weeks, unless during that time it is shown to the court that the divorce should not be finalised for some reason (the word ‘nisi’ means ‘unless’ in Latin).
After the six week period has elapsed, the party in whose favour the decree nisi was pronounced may apply for the decree absolute (if they don’t apply then the other party may apply after a further three months have elapsed), although often the decree absolute is not applied for until financial matters have been resolved. Only when the decree absolute has been made are the parties divorced, and therefore free to remarry.
There are two lessons to be learned from this story: firstly, don’t believe everything you read in the papers, and secondly, don’t expect to remarry until you have your decree absolute!
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