Even in the most successful of lives there will always be ups and downs, peaks and troughs.
Exciting new job opportunities that come along, long periods of excellent health, relationships that bloom and grow into marriage, friendships that form and business ventures that are sparked. Over a lifetime, many of those good things will be counter balanced by a fair share of hardship too.
Unemployment can be sudden and unexpected, friendships can fall by the wayside, business ventures may take a dive and marriages can and do fail and end in separation, followed by an Application for Divorce. Just to top it off, health often takes a hit during times of high stress.
Thankfully it is not all doom and gloom. As far as separating and getting a divorce goes, there are ways to avoid the worst possible downfalls of the divorce process (stressful legal battles and insane legal bills) and keep the process easy and manageable.
That is why we have put together this handy guide explaining how to get a divorce in Australia, which includes how to prepare your divorce papers and an outline of the actual process of filing for divorce. Thanks to our federal family law system, these tips and steps can be used in all States and Territories of Australia (NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, NT, ACT, TAS, and WA*).
Best of all, these simple steps keep the cost of divorce down and will help you avoid spending more than you need on unnecessary legal fees.**
How to get a divorce in Australia: Simple five step guide
Step 1 – Prepare your divorce papers
First things first. You will need to prepare and complete an Application for Divorce document. You can choose to make a joint application (you and your ex-spouse applying together, both signatures are required) or you can go with a sole application in which case you apply by yourself (only your signature is required).
There are a few options to have the divorce application documents prepared. You can pay a private lawyer to do this for you, however they typically charge up to $1,000 (or more!) to prepare divorce papers. Applicants can also register with the Commonwealth Courts Portal to complete and lodge a divorce application. Alternatively, at eDivorce, you can avoid high legal fees by using our easy to use and affordable online Divorce Kits which represent exceptional value at only $89. Each Kit includes a completed Application for Divorce document AND includes a free copy of our detailed step-by-step Divorce eGuide (normally $29).
Step 2 – Sign your divorce papers before a qualified witness
After you have correctly prepared your divorce application papers, you will need to sign them in front of a qualified witness. In Australia, most people sign their divorce application papers before a Justice of the Peace. Contact your local council or search online to find a local Justice of the Peace.
When signing your application, you must choose to either swear an oath on the bible or make an affirmation of truth, that the contents of your application are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.
Step 3 – File your divorce papers with the Court
After step 2, you now have an original divorce application that has been signed and sworn (or affirmed) before a qualified witness. If you are making a joint application, the document must be signed by both you and your former spouse before being lodged with the court.
Your next step is to make two photocopies of the original application document (and any necessary supporting documents, for example if you wish to apply for a fee reduction). For more detailed information see our Divorce eGuide. You will also need to obtain a copy of your marriage certificate.
Then you need file those documents (the original application for divorce document, the two photocopies, a copy of marriage certificate and any supporting documents) with the Family Law Courts (or the Family Court of WA if you hail from the beautiful wild west). To file your documents, you can either physically attend your local Family Courts registry and file in person (please contact us if you are unsure of your local registry). Alternately, you can file your documents by post. We recommend using registered post. When you file your application, you will need to pay the Court filing fee. You may also be eligible for a fee reduction. See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the Court Fee or contact our Support Team if you have any further questions.
Step 4 – Receive your sealed documents (and serve them if you need to)
After you file the documents as explained in Step 3 above, the Court will process and enter your application into their system. You will be allocated a Court Hearing date (usually a couple of months from the date of filing). The Court will also stamp the original and the two photocopies of your application with the Court seal. The documents are now referred to as ‘sealed’ documents, because they carry the official stamp of the Family Court.
The Court will keep the sealed original application for divorce for their records. If you made a Joint Application for Divorce the court will send one sealed copy of the application to you and one copy to your ex-spouse. If you made a Sole Application for Divorce, the court will send both sealed copies to you. You must then arrange to “serve” (deliver) a sealed copy to your ex-spouse. In fact, one of the questions we are most commonly asked is Do I have to ‘serve’ my ex with the divorce papers?.
Step 5 – The Court hearing
You will be informed of the Court hearing date soon after you lodge your divorce papers at Step 3 above. At the Court hearing, if your divorce papers are in order and contain all the necessary information, the Court will go ahead and make a divorce order. The divorce order will become official one month and one day after the Court hearing date.
You are not required to attend at the Court hearing if you have filed a joint application (although you may choose to attend if you wish). If you have made a sole application AND there are children of the marriage under the age of 18, then you will need to attend the Court hearing. If you made a sole application but there are no children under 18, you are not required to attend the hearing. See our Divorce eGuide for more information about the Court hearing or contact our Support Team if you have any further questions.
We hope you have found today’s blog useful.
If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch with us here.
The eDivorce team
* The Family Law Courts are Federal Courts which have jurisdiction in all States and Territories of Australia, except Western Australia. WA has its own Family Court, the Family Court of Western Australia (“the FCWA”). This means WA residents must apply to the FCWA for divorce. Please note that eDivorce Kits and eGuides can still be used by WA residents and lodged with the FCWA.
**These steps are designed to assist people to achieve a simple stress-free divorce. If your situation is complex you may need to obtain legal advice.