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Don't lose your Decree Absolute

View profile for Philip Hoddell
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The Decree Absolute is the final court document which confirms that a marriage has legally ended. We will always send you the original of your Decree Absolute and will recommend that you keep it in a safe place, as it can prove difficult to obtain another should the original get lost. Since you need to produce the original Decree Absolute in the event you wish to remarry, it is very important to keep it safe.

What happens if you do lose your Decree Absolute? 

If you lose your Decree Absolute, there is a central record. It should be possible to get a copy from there, however, the following case shows that this does not always work.

Mr Power got married in October 1987. Sadly, the marriage did not last and he issued divorce proceedings seven years later. The Decree Absolute was granted in January 1997, therefore, they were then legally separated. 

More than 20 years later, Mr Power wanted to remarry. He could not find his Decree Absolute so he wrote to the court that had dealt with his divorce and asked for a copy of it.

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals services have a records and retention policy which means that divorce files are destroyed 18 years after the date of Decree Absolute. However, some key paperwork, including the Decree Absolute, is kept for a total of 100 years!

The problem here was that the court had not followed its own policy and had destroyed the whole file in 2013. Worse, they had not sent a copy to the Central Register so it could not help either.

Obviously, by this time, Mr Power was no longer in touch with his ex-wife. In the end, the court managed to get in touch with her. She was living in Australia. She didn’t know whether she had kept a copy of the Decree Absolute and if it was on the other side of the country.

In the end, and at the expense of the court, Mr Power’s ex-wife visited her storage facility and found a photocopy of the Decree Absolute. On hearing of this, the High Court pronounced itself satisfied that the document she produced was an authentic accurate copy and, therefore, the Decree Absolute had been pronounced on 29 January 1997. Apologies were given to Mr Power and he was now free to remarry.

The problem was that this took so much time. He wanted a copy of his Decree Absolute in January 2018, but it was not until July 2019 that he was finally able to go ahead and remarry. I very much hope that his fiancé was a patient person!

Everyone who works in our court system knows that it is in a state of considerable disarray at the moment. The facts of this case are unusual even then, but it does go to show that when we suggest people keep the Decree Absolute in a safe place, we really do mean it.

If there is anything that we can do to help you trace your lost Decree Absolute, please contact our divorce law experts. 

Our divorce and separation solicitors can help you throughout the whole process of ending a relationship until you receive the final divorce documents.

I am a divorce lawyer based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217320 or philip.hoddell@birkettlong.co.uk.

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