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What happens at a Decree Nisi Hearing in Northern Ireland

Decree Nisi hearings are different in Northern Ireland.  The Petitioner in the divorce must always attend the Decree Nisi hearing.  The Respondent must attend if the divorce is being contested.  This article explains what happens in a Decree Nisi hearing in Northern Ireland.

Your solicitor will ask you to arrive at the courthouse on a certain day for a given time.  They will allow  an amount of time to brief you on what will happen at the hearing.

When you arrive you will probably find that there are multiple courtrooms.  Ask at the reception, main desk or information desk to see which court you should go to.  Your name should be on their lists.  You may need to ask where County Court is sitting.

After you have met and spoken with your solicitor, you will need to wait in the waiting room outside the courtroom until your name is called.

There may not be a hard and fast time allotted for your hearing, so be prepared to wait for perhaps half an hour while other cases are heard.

What should you wear to court for decree nisi hearing?

It really doesn’t matter what you wear to court.  There may not be a dress code as such.  Technically the court are only concerned with the facts of the case.  However you may feel more comfortable dressing smartly and being well presented, so maybe wear a suit if you have one.

After all, you probably dressed very smartly for your wedding at the start of your marriage so it shows a degree of respect and sombreness to dress smartly at the conclusion of it.

But if in any doubt, ask your solicitor before the court date.

The Decree Nisi hearing

When your case is called a court official will call out the names of both parties, even in uncontested divorce proceedings.  So don’t be surprised to hear your spouse’s name called in the waiting area along with yours.

Your solicitor will lead you into the courtroom and direct you to the witness stand.

A court official will ask you to make the standard “tell the truth” oath while placing your hand on the Bible.  Other religious books may be available.  You can then sit down in the witness stand.

The court official will show you your marriage certificate and ask you to confirm that it is your marriage certificate.

Your solicitor will address you and ask you to confirm various details that they read out from your divorce petition.  You just need to state ‘Yes’ or ‘That’s correct’ if you agree with what they read out.

They will also ask you directly if there is any prospect of reconciliation with your partner.

Your solicitor will also ask you to confirm that you want the grounds for divorce as listed on the petition to be taken into account by the court.  If you agree, say ‘Yes’.

At this point your solicitor will hand over to the judge.  Depending on the scenario, the judge may ask you a couple of basic questions but in a simple case they will not ask you anything further.

The judge will probably ask your solicitor, if it has not already been stated, whether there is a financial agreement in place.  You do not need it to be in place and finalised, but if not, your solicitor may say that it is in progress.

In a simple uncontested divorce, that concludes the evidence giving part of the hearing.

If the judge is satisfied, they will say that they are granting a decree nisi today, and based on the evidence provided they may say that they believe the failure of your marriage rests with your spouse.

They will also ask your solicitor whether they are seeking costs.  If so, this effectively creates a debt where your spouse owes you some of the costs involved in the proceedings.

And in a simple case, that’s it.  Your decree nisi hearing is over.  You could be back outside the courtroom in less than five minutes.

More complex Decree Nisi hearings

In a more complex case, where there are children involved, the judge will take more time to make sure all necessary provisions have been made.

If your divorce is being contested by your spouse, both parties will have an opportunity to speak and give evidence, and the judge may ask both parties questions before they make a decision.


I hope this takes away some of the mystery or fear of what happens at a decree nisi hearing in Northern Ireland and helps you to prepare for this significant day in court.

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