Divorce can be a complex and overwhelming experience for many, but what if there was a way to simplify the process and take control of your own separation?
Enter the world of DIY divorce – an alternative approach that allows couples to navigate the divorce process without the high costs and lengthy legal battles often associated with traditional divorce proceedings.
This comprehensive guide will empower you with the knowledge and resources necessary to confidently tackle a DIY divorce in Australia, providing you with a clear roadmap to a new chapter in your life.
From understanding the basic concepts and eligibility criteria, to navigating family law issues and legal assistance options, this guide will lead you through each step of the DIY divorce process. So, take a deep breath, and let’s embark on this journey towards a more manageable and cost-effective divorce experience.
- DIY Divorce is an alternative approach to traditional divorce proceedings, with eligibility criteria and a straightforward online application process.
- Filing fees for DIY divorces may be costly but in some cases, you could be eligible for reduced fees.
- While you can DIY your divorce, there’s also many different legal resources that can provide support at any point of the process, including our divorce lawyers in New South Wales. .
What is a DIY Divorce?
When we hear DIY, we’re most likely going to think of Bunnings or those home projects we haven’t gotten around to just yet. However, there’s even a DIY option in the divorce space.
DIY divorce, or “do-it-yourself” divorce, is an alternative approach to traditional divorce proceedings, enabling couples to apply for and finalise their divorce without having to go see legal assistance services, like a divorce lawyer – you can do a lot of it online.
It’s important to note though, it may not be possible in all situations and understanding the eligibility criteria and the process is vital before embarking on a DIY divorce journey.
Eligibility Criteria for a DIY Divorce in Australia
In Australia, to be eligible for a DIY divorce, one of the parties must be an Australian resident, have resided in the country for at least 12 months prior to filing for divorce, and have been separated for at least 12 months prior to filing for divorce.
The only requirement or grounds for ending your marriage that you need to prove is that the relationship between you and your ex-partner has irrevocably broken down and there is no possibility of reconciliation. This is demonstrated through the 12 month separation period and the divorce system is known as a ‘no fault’ divorce system.
Another important note is that you may have been separated from your ex partner for 12 months but you have been living under the same roof at some point during the separation period or the entire separation period.
In such cases, you will need to provide additional evidence to demonstrate that there has been a change in the marriage by preparing and submitting an affidavit, especially for joint applicants who have been separated but residing in the same residence for any portion of the twelve months preceding the submission of their divorce application. If you are uncertain about meeting the eligibility criteria for a DIY divorce, it’s recommended to seek legal counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer prior to submitting an application, as only you can determine if you meet the eligibility criteria.
The Online Divorce Application Process
The online divorce application process is a convenient and straightforward way to initiate your DIY divorce – the online divorce application process involves submitting an application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia through the Commonwealth Courts Portal, paying the filing fee, and serving divorce papers to the other party.
However, there are various aspects of this process that you should be aware of, including filing fees, the distinctions between joint and sole applications, and the process of serving divorce papers to your spouse.
When applying for a divorce online, you have the option of filing independently or jointly with your ex-spouse to address the legal problem of divorce. A court filing fee is required upon submission of your application, along with any necessary documents, such as a counselling certificate if applicable. Applications for divorce may be eFiled online via the Commonwealth Courts Portal, which provides access to the Court’s secure website, enabling eFiling and 24/7 access to court orders. At the time of writing (December 2023) the filing fee for a divorce is $930, or $310 if you are eligible for a reduced fee, such as if you possess a health care card.
Filing Fee and Financial Support
Divorce application filing fees may be hefty, but eligible individuals may have access to financial support. There are various financial supports available when filing for a divorce, including government-funded services that offer advice and assistance after separation. Furthermore, some individuals may qualify for reduced fees when applying for a divorce, depending on their income and assets. It’s also vital to consider child support and spousal maintenance arrangements as part of the financial support during a divorce.
Eligibility for divorce filing fee assistance varies by state, as each state has its own criteria and guidelines for determining eligibility for reduced fees or fee waivers based on financial hardship. Checking your state’s family court or divorce process’s specific requirements is essential to determine your eligibility for fee assistance. Non-profit organisations, such as legal aid commissions, community legal centres, and women’s legal organisations, also provide assistance with divorce filing fees and other legal matters related to divorce.
Joint vs. Sole Applications
The choice between joint and sole applications is an essential consideration in the online divorce application process. Joint applications involve both parties consenting to the divorce, while a sole application for divorce is when one party initiates the dissolution of marriage without the other party’s participation.
Joint and sole applications have distinct differences. Here are the key points:
- A joint application necessitates both parties consenting to the divorce.
- A sole application necessitates one party initiating the process.
- Court attendance is mandatory for a sole application for divorce if there are minors under the age of 18.
- One is not obligated to attend court for their divorce hearing if a joint application is filed.
In a sole application for divorce, the individual who initiates the process is referred to as the applicant, while the other party is referred to as the respondent.
Serving Divorce Papers
Serving divorce papers is a crucial step in the DIY divorce process. This process involves ensuring your spouse receives a copy of the application and any accompanying documents following the applicable rules and timeframes. It’s essential to serve divorce papers to your spouse to ensure they are aware of your filing for divorce.
The various methods for serving divorce papers include sending them by post, delivering them by hand, or requesting the court to consider alternative methods of service. You must have attempted all reasonable efforts to search for your spouse before listing their address as ‘unknown’. If you have been unsuccessful in your search, then this option can be pursued.
Navigating Family Law Issues During a DIY Divorce
While navigating family law issues during a DIY divorce may pose a challenge, equipped with the right information and resources, you can effectively address these issues.
When undertaking a DIY divorce, it’s necessary to address parenting arrangements, property and money issues (property settlement), and spousal support considerations related to family law.
In some cases, working out arrangements for these can be straightforward, however, we do recommend seeking legal advice, preferably before you start the divorce process so that you can understand what is required for each of these areas. It’s usually a lot more involved than many people realise, so to ensure you don’t miss anything, getting initial advice can make a world of difference. You don’t have to necessarily continue working with a lawyer after seeking this advice.
Parenting arrangements are an essential aspect of any divorce involving children. This involves creating a plan for the care and living arrangements of any children involved in the divorce process. When determining parenting arrangements in a DIY divorce, it’s crucial to take the child’s needs and well-being into account.
Parents can construct a reasonable parenting arrangement plan by:
- Establishing open communication
- Taking into account the child’s best interests
- Devising a detailed schedule
- Dividing responsibilities
- Remaining flexible
- Obtaining professional assistance if necessary
These arrangements ensure that the child’s needs are met and that both parents can maintain a healthy relationship with their child after the divorce.
Property and Money Issues
During a divorce, matters of property and money can lead to significant disagreements. In a DIY divorce, property division necessitates the formal allocation of assets and liabilities between the separating couple. To evaluate assets during a divorce, one can take several steps, including:
- Identifying the assets that are part of the asset pool
- Ascertaining the value of each asset
- Obtaining a family law valuation
- Conducting a physical property inspection if required
- Consulting a real estate valuer or professional appraiser
In addition to property division, personal debts may also be a concern during a divorce. Generally, personal debts remain with the person who incurred them during a divorce property settlement, however, if you’re unsure how to proceed, seek legal advice. It’s essential to consider all property and financial matters when navigating a DIY divorce.
Spousal Support Considerations
Spousal support, also known as alimony (in America) or maintenance, is another crucial factor to consider during a DIY divorce. Spousal support is a form of financial assistance provided to a spouse post-divorce, meant to provide economic aid to a spouse who is unable to adequately support themselves due to factors such as age, illness, or a significant disparity in incomes.
When determining spousal support, a range of factors are taken into consideration, such as:
- financial resources of both parties
The income of both parties can influence the allocation of spousal support, with a higher income potentially requiring a higher amount of support.
Spousal support can be paid on an ongoing basis or in one lump sum, depending on the circumstances.
Legal Assistance Options for DIY Divorce
Even though a DIY divorce allows you to steer through the divorce process independently, being aware of available legal assistance options is crucial for a seamless process. Legal assistance options for DIY divorce include the Family Relationship Advice Line, online tools and services and family divorce lawyers.
Family Relationship Advice Line
The Family Relationship Advice Line is a national telephone service that provides assistance to families affected by relationship or separation issues. It offers information and advice to support families in strengthening their relationships and navigating through separation. In the context of DIY divorce, the Family Relationship Advice Line provides advice concerning family law issues, such as relationship or separation issues, parenting arrangements, and free information about family.
By providing free information and simple advice regarding family law, the Family Relationship Advice Line can assist in DIY divorce cases and refer you to government-funded services that offer support during the separation process. The operating hours of the Family Relationship Advice Line are 8 am – 8 pm Monday to Friday and 10 am – 4 pm Saturday (local time), excluding national public holidays.
Online Tools and Services
Online tools and services, such as Amica, can be a valuable resource for individuals going through a DIY divorce. Amica is an online service created by National Legal Aid that offers:
- Family law information
- Guides couples through a series of questions to work towards resolution
- Helps couples arrive at amicable agreements regarding asset division and parenting arrangements
Amica assists separating couples in reaching a consensus regarding parenting, property, and financial matters. Utilising this online service can be beneficial in navigating the divorce process.
Amica’s AI technology offers the following features:
- Suggests asset splits
- Creates parenting plans
- Uses machine learning algorithms to take into consideration the couple’s particular circumstances and agreements attained by other couples
- Offers individualised recommendations
Amica is accessible for couples who are in the process of separating or have already separated, making it a valuable tool for those dealing with a former partner during the DIY divorce process.
Family Divorce Lawyers
Divorce lawyers who work at family law firms can be a great way for you to secure the knowledge and support that you need during a trying time, like a divorce. While some people may opt for a DIY divorce, there are a lot of pros when it comes to working with a lawyer.
While there are costs associated with our services, we may help you get into a better financial position and be able to move forward with your life a lot more seamlessly than if you were to do it yourself. That’s because we know exactly what needs to be done and everything that needs to be considered. We can make the divorce process and everything it encapsulates a lot easier.
You can also have a consultation with us, where we can answer questions and provide you with a cost estimate for our divorce lawyer services so you can make an informed decision about working with us.
At Clarity Lawyers, we’re experienced and empathetic when it comes divorce and all other family law matters. We get how tough it can be and that you just want to resolve your disputes as soon as possible. We will work with you closely to ensure that we understand your unique situation and needs and get you a fair outcome for your divorce.
Our divorce law services are available Australia-wide from our offices in Maitland and Newcastle. Get in touch with us here.
Court Attendance and Finalising Your Divorce
For specific types of divorce applications like sole applications involving children under 18, court attendance may be necessary. At the court date, the couple’s divorce will be finalised. The judge will evaluate the given information to determine if grounds for divorce have been met. If you are unable to locate your spouse during the divorce process, you may list their address as ‘unknown’ and apply to the court for a service order.
Divorce finalisation involves the following steps:
- Establishing the grounds for divorce and gathering all the required information.
- Submitting the necessary documents to the court.
- Attending any required court hearings.
- Once the divorce order has been granted, your DIY divorce process is complete, allowing you to move forward to a new chapter in your life.
In conclusion, a DIY divorce provides an alternative approach to traditional divorce proceedings, empowering individuals with the knowledge, resources, and tools necessary to navigate the process on their own. By understanding the eligibility criteria, online application process, family law issues, legal assistance options, and court attendance requirements, you can confidently tackle a DIY divorce and take control of your own separation.
Remember, while the road to a DIY divorce may be challenging, it can also be empowering. With the right information, support, and determination, you can successfully navigate this process and emerge stronger, wiser, and ready to embrace the next chapter in your life.