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Do I need to keep my Decree Absolute?

Your marriage certificate is irregular in size and tends to be coloured and, therefore, whilst people sometimes mislay it, most people know where it is. This is probably due to the fact that is signifies such an important event in someone’s life also. The dissolution of that marriage, similarly significant is recorded by a Decree Absolute, and is a much blander document. It tends to be A4 in size and in black and white and is normally attached to either a cover sheet from the Court or a letter from your solicitor. It can easily be mislaid.

A Decree Absolute is a legal document and the original is required if you are going to remarry. It is also required for a number of other life transactions.

In the case of Power v Vidal [2019] EWHC2101 the parties had just that problem, in that whilst they knew that Decree Absolute was granted on 29 January 1997, they could not locate the Decree Absolute. The Petitioner was planning to remarry and required his Decree Absolute. A formal application to the Court was necessary, but the Court could not locate the Decree Absolute nor could they confirm the date that it had been granted. It transpired during the case that the original case file had been destroyed by the Court in 2013 despite the fact that HMCTS record and retention policy directs that key documents should be retained for 100 years. The Decree Absolute had not been entered onto the central index pursuant to the Family Procedure Rules either. The Respondent, who had left the country, had only retained a copy.

In the case of Power v Vidal matters were resolved by the Court making a declaration to put the parties in a position as close as possible to that that they would have been if the Decree Absolute had not been lost, however for the High Court to do this, it added several months of delay and a huge amount of costs at a time when the Petitioner was hoping to remarry. He was faced with having to obtain a declaration that he was actually divorced some 21 years previously.

The lesson is that you must keep your Decree Absolute safe. The answer to the question ‘do I need to keep my Decree Absolute?’ is yes! It may be a fairly innocuous document, but the impact of losing it can be both time and cost intensive.

For more information or to discuss this or any other family issues further, please call us on 01908 262680 or email enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

You may also be interested in: The difference between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute

Loraine has over 20 years experience in family law and has always specialised in this area. In recent years Loraine has spent the majority of her time acting for clients in relation to financial matters following relationship breakdowns, particularly more complex cases involving trust company assets or pensions. She also deals with complex children matters such as removal from jurisdiction, protracted and difficult child arrangement orders.

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