When parties are divorcing, there are presently three stages of the divorce process: the issue of the petition; the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.
A marriage is not dissolved until Decree Absolute has been pronounced. The earliest this can occur is 6 weeks and 1 day after the date of pronouncement of Decree Nisi.
Often, parties may still be negotiating their finances and may not have an agreed Order, or have a date for a Final Hearing in the Court process, within this time period. Therefore, some parties may feel that they want to end the marriage even before finances have been resolved.
However, be aware that once Decree Absolute has been pronounced, the parties will no longer be spouses and therefore, on death, no longer a widow or widower. If matrimonial assets are owned in the name of the spouse or they die before an Order is obtained, they may no longer have the same matrimonial claims, particularly with regard to pensions.
Additionally, be aware of what might happen if the family home is owned jointly as tenants in common and where the ex-spouse may have made a new Will.
The obtaining of Decree Absolute means that any gift to “my spouse” in an existing Will is no longer valid. In such a scenario, parties would need to make a separate application under the Inheritance Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975.
We are not aware that the above will change by reference to the recently announced government proposals to reform the divorce laws.