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How to get a divorce in Australia

As a family law firm with more than thirty years legal experience behind us, we understand that divorce can be a stressful time for our clients. That is why we are here to support you through with a sensitive, pragmatic and effective approach, as well as a constantly updated legal knowledge base to help our clients.

The Divorce Process in Australia

Divorce, which means the dissolution of marriage, is not a hasty process.

First of all, the couple must be separated for at least a year before the divorce paperwork can be lodged. From here, the next step is the divorce hearing.

The divorce proceedings refer simply to divorce alone, and it may surprise you to know that other issues like spousal maintenance, property settlements and children’s issues not automatically dealt with in this hearing. They need to be intentionally approached before divorce is dealt or in the case of property/spousal maintenance matters they need to be finalised or court proceedings issued within one year of the divorce order being made final.

1. Separate for Twelve Months

For the process to begin, it’s a requirement that both parties live separately for at least one year before even filing for divorce. A couple may be separated under the same roof although additional will be required to support the Application.

Essentially, what the Court needs to find is that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage relationship. They also need to find that at least one spouse regarded the marriage as over on the date of separation, and in some way communicated this to the other.

2. Lodge the Application

Having all of your paperwork in order before lodging your application will make it easier. Once it’s lodged, you’ll receive a file number and date/time for the hearing to come. This is also the time where documents are served on your spouse, with at least 28 days’ notice needed for this – more if the party is overseas.

Parties are able to complete the divorce form themselves here but if your situation involves complex issues, the custody of children or you need help filling it out, then please contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

3. Service

It is very important for you to serve the Divorce Application properly upon your spouse. You cannot do this personally yourself. You will need to send the Divorce Application by post (if you believe he/she will sign and return the Acknowledgment of Service). You can have a family member or friend serve the documents or employ a process server.

4. The Divorce Hearing

Two things need to be proved at the divorce hearing, which is demonstrated by a separation period of at least one year and one day:

  1. that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and
  2. that there’s no reasonable likelihood of getting back together.

If the application is jointly made and there are no children under 18 years old involved, then attendance at the hearing is not needed. For sole applications that involve children under 18 years old, attendance is required.

How Long Does It Take?

Theoretically and to the court’s discretion, a couple can be granted a Divorce Order after being separated for one year and one day, assuming there are no appeals. In reality, it will take longer than this due to a variety of factors:

  • how long the time frame is for serving notice
  • if the application is a sole or joint one
  • whether children under 18 years old are involved
  • when the date has been set

This isn’t an exhaustive list of factors, and the exact time frame will depend on the individual case.

Couples who have been married for less than two years face a longer wait than those who haven’t, with additional requirements like counselling needed before divorce may be granted.

How Much Does It Cost?

As a guide, the actual cost of filing for divorce in Australia will cost you at least $865 to send off your application (see a list of Court fees from the Family Court.) If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, you can apply for a reduction of payment through the Court.

It’s the other components following separation and divorce, such as the property settlement and potential for spousal maintenance that usually involves greater costs. How much this will be is dependent on a variety of factors and specific to the parties’ situation.

 

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