Divorce is never easy. Even if you are the person who made the decision to part, it can be a very emotional and confusing time. To make sure your divorce is legal and goes through as smoothly as possible there are several steps that need to be followed in Victoria and Australia.
Step 1: Your reason for divorcing
In Australia, we have no-fault divorce. This means the only reason you need to divorce is that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. No person needs to be at fault to apply for divorce.
Step 2: Meet the requirements to apply for divorce
Before you apply for a divorce in Australia you must make sure you can prove at least one of the following for both yourself and your partner:
- You were born in Australia or are Australian citizens; or
- You both live in Australia and call it home; or
- You have both lived in Australia for at least 12 months before your divorce application.
Step 3: Be legally separated
Before you can apply for a divorce you and your partner must also prove that you have been legally separated for at least 12 months. You can demonstrate that you have been separated in several ways, including living in different houses.
If you have been living in the same house you can still prove that you are separated by showing that you have lived separate lives for over a year. To do this you will need an independent person, like a friend or family member, to provide evidence that you have had separate lives.
Step 4: Complete your divorce application form
You can apply for a divorce either by yourself (a sole application) or in a joint application with your partner. Our lawyers can help you complete the application form or you can complete it yourself.
In your application you will need to make an affirmation that what you have put in the application is true and a copy of your marriage certificate. If you have been married for less than two years you will also need to provide a copy of a counselling certificate.
Once it has been filled in you will need to have the application signed by a witness. Only specific people can witness a divorce application like a Justice of the Peace or a lawyer.
Step 5: File your divorce application form
Once you have completed your divorce application form and had it witnessed you can either file it in person at the Family Law Courts registry, send it by registered post to the Family Law Court or lodge it online at the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
The Court will review your application and notify you if it is incomplete or has any errors. If you receive a notification you will need to fix the issue before your divorce application can continue the process.
You will also need to pay a fee for filing your divorce application form. You may be able to have your fee reduced if you have financial hardship, are under 18 years of age or receive Government health concessions, legal aid, Austudy, ABSTUDY or a youth allowance.
Step 6: Serve your divorce application
If you completed a sole divorce application your partner will need to be aware that you have filed for divorce. To do this you will need to serve your partner with your divorce application. You can serve your application for divorce by mail or have a third party do it for you. You cannot serve your divorce application in person yourself.
If you do not know where your partner is you will still need to show the Court that you have taken reasonable steps to find them. This involves stating that their address is unknown and completing a separate application form asking the court to not require your divorce application to be served. Our lawyers can help you demonstrate that you have tried to find your partner and complete the application for you.
Step 7: Have your divorce hearing
You will be given a Court hearing date once you have filed your application for divorce and your partner has been served with the application. Your hearing date may be several months after you filed your application form.
At your divorce hearing the Court will review your divorce application form and if it is complete then your divorce order will be finalised. You only need to attend your divorce hearing if you have children who are under 18 years of age with your partner, one of you objects to the divorce application or you want to attend the divorce hearing.
Step 8: Your divorce certificate is issued
The final step in your divorce is being issued with your divorce certificate. The Court will issue your divorce certificate one month and one day after your divorce hearing. Once this happens you will be legally divorced.
Even though you are legally divorced at this point, you may still have arrangements to finalise regarding custody and care of your children and your finances. These are dealt with in separate processes.
Our solicitors have over 20 years experience helping people just like you through their separation and divorce. We know that it’s an emotional and stressful time, so we take the time to listen to you, explain family law in plain English and outline your options. Once you decide what you want to do, we can then take care of the formalities, like paperwork and court visits, so the process moves as quickly and smoothly as possible.