Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Decree Absolute Definition:

The name given to a final and conclusive court order after the condition of an interim or intervening order (decree nisi) is met.

Related Terms: Decree Nisi, Divorce a Mensa et Thoro, Divorce, A Vinculo Matrimonii

A decree absolute if final and binding upon the parties and, in principle, upon the entire world at large.

It usually follows, and is distinguished from a decree nisi, a conditional divorce order, usually limited only to the expiration of the timeframe within which an appeal may be launched. Historically, a much longer timeframe was imposed between the decree nisi and the decree absolute of divorce, such as six months, in order to eliminate any prospect of reconciliation between the divorcing individuals. The courts were able to shorten the period between the decree nisi and the decree absolute for good reason.

A person is generally not able to re-marry until a decree absolute has issued.

The patronizing characteristic of the decree nisi has eventually led to its demise and most jurisdictions simply render the divorce order to take effect as soon as the deadline for appeal has expired.

During its tenure, the decree absolute meant exactly that. For example, in Kemp-Welch v Kemp-Welch and Crymes, the decree absolute was dated September 6, 1911. Charles Crymes had been accused of adultery with Mrs. Kemp-Welch. The decree nisi and the subsequent decree absolute reflected that. But when Mr. Crymes later discovered collusion on the part of the divorcing spouses, and that they had in fact reconciled and were again living together in, of all places, Canada (!), he sought to have the decree absolute overturned.

Justice Evans of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the English Court of Appeal opined that, fraud or no fraud:

"I have no jurisdiction to disturb the decree absolute.... If there is any method of getting rid of the decree after it has been made absolute, it is not be motion in this Court."


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