Step-by-Step Guide: How to Get Divorced in Australia Explained

Clarity Lawyers Blog Divorce Legal Presentation Australia

Divorce is an emotionally challenging and legally complex process, making it difficult for individuals to navigate the intricate maze of decisions and requirements.

To help to remove some of this confusion and complexity, our divorce lawyers in New South Wales, have put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to get divorced in Australia.

Our aim is to help you understand and manage the divorce process, empowering you to make informed choices and achieve the best possible outcome for your unique circumstances.

Key Takeaways

  • This article provides an overview of the divorce process in Australia, including eligibility requirements and the court’s role.
  • It includes information regarding the various costs associated with divorce, such as filing for a divorce, as well as legal representation options and religious/cultural considerations.
  • It also outlines steps to reach a property settlement agreement while considering best interests of children involved.

Understanding the Divorce Process in Australia

Divorce in Australia involves both legal and financial aspects that need careful consideration. From eligibility requirements to the court’s role in finalising your divorce, A clear understanding of the process is beneficial for a successful and efficient outcome.

This article provides an overview of the different stages and factors involved in divorce, offering direction on handling this difficult process.

Eligibility Criteria for Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce in Australia, you must meet specific eligibility criteria.

These include:

  • Residency requirements
  • Completing a separation period of at least 12 months, and
  • Proof of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Each of these criteria plays a significant role in ensuring that only genuine cases of marital breakdown are granted divorce, helping to maintain the integrity of the family law system in Australia.

Application Types: Sole vs Joint

When you need to apply for a divorce, you have two options: a sole application or a joint application. A sole application is initiated by one spouse, while a joint application involves both spouses agreeing to and completing the application for divorce. In a joint application, both parties submit the application electronically, and court attendance is not necessarily required. However, in a sole application, the applicant must serve the divorce documents on the respondent and may be required to attend court if children under 18 are involved.

Weighing the pros and cons is necessary of each application type to determine which is most suitable for your situation. A joint application can be less adversarial and may lead to a more amicable resolution, while a sole application may be necessary if one spouse is unwilling to cooperate or cannot be located.

There is no correct answer here either, it is entirely dependent on the unique circumstances of your situation. You can always seek advice from experienced family divorce lawyers who can provide you with further insight in terms of what to expect and the requirements of each application type.

Finalising Your Divorce: The Court’s Role

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia plays a significant role in finalising your divorce in Australia. As part of your divorce, you must work through a property settlement and create parenting arrangements (if you have children). The Court has the responsibility to ensure a just and equitable outcome that takes into account both parties’ financial and non-financial contributions, future needs and earning capacity, and the best interests of any children involved. When the court is satisfied that the marital relationship has irrevocably broken down, and there is no prospect of reconciliation, it will approve a divorce order.

Please note that court attendance is not always necessary when finalising your divorce. Attendance may be required if you are filing a sole application with children under 18 or if you cannot reach an agreement on property settlements or parenting arrangements.

Regardless of the circumstances, understanding the court’s role and requirements, including the possibility of a court hearing, will assist you in navigating this significant stage of the divorce process.

Clarity Lawyers Blog Divorce Legal Presentation Australia 1

Legal Representation: Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer?

While it is not obligatory to engage a divorce lawyer during the divorce process, collaborating with one can make the procedure considerably more manageable rather than going down the DIY divorce process. Below we will go into more detail about the benefits you could experience if you were to work with a divorce lawyer.

Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

Hiring a family divorce lawyer for your divorce provides numerous benefits. A lawyer’s expertise can help ensure that you understand your entitlements in the divorce settlement, and they can offer guidance on property division, child custody, and tailored advice based on your unique circumstances. By engaging a divorce lawyer, you can avoid potential pitfalls and achieve a fair and just outcome in your divorce.

Also, a divorce lawyer can offer beneficial assistance with court procedures, documentation, and negotiation or mediation to resolve disputes outside of court. Their knowledge and experience can prove invaluable in navigating the complex legal landscape of divorce and other family law matters, helping you to make informed decisions and protect your rights. Family and divorce lawyers are well-versed in family law and can provide the support you need during this challenging time.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to work with a lawyer throughout your whole divorce, you can also choose to seek initial legal advice and that’s the only engagement you have with us. If you want to learn more about the benefits of seeking legal advice early from a family and divorce lawyer, watch the below video.


Representing Yourself: Understanding the Risks

While self-representation in divorce proceedings is an option, there are certain risks and challenges associated with this approach. Potential complications can arise from a lack of legal expertise, leading to errors in paperwork or misunderstandings of legal requirements. Also, individuals representing themselves may struggle to navigate the emotional complexities of divorce, resulting in a more contentious and stressful process.

Despite these challenges, some individuals choose to represent themselves in divorce proceedings to save on legal costs. However, it’s necessary to carefully consider the potential risks and weigh them against the benefits of hiring a family lawyer. In many cases, the expertise and support provided by a lawyer can lead to a more favourable outcome, both financially and emotionally.

Navigating Parenting Arrangements and Child Support

Parenting arrangements and child support are critical aspects of divorce that require careful consideration and negotiation. Ensuring that you’re prioritising the best interests of the child is paramount.

Below we will discuss some of the parenting and children matters that may arise during a divorce, including how decisions should be made.

Best Interests of the Child: Parenting Orders

The best interests of the child should always be the primary focus when determining parenting orders during divorce.

The best interests of the child is actually a family law principle, and encompasses two key points – these are that the child has the right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents and they also have the right to be protected from harm of any kind. More weight is given to the second point.

Whether it’s the court or the parents making decisions about children, the best interests should always be taken into consideration, and on top of the two we mentioned above, some other factors that should be considered include:

  • the child’s wishes
  • age and maturity
  • views and opinions
  • any other relevant factors

This is to ensure that the child’s well-being is prioritised above all else.

In many cases, parents can work together to establish parenting arrangements that meet their child’s needs and protect their best interests and avoid needing to go to Court to have these issues sorted out. However, if parents cannot agree on parenting arrangements, the court may need to intervene and make decisions on their behalf.

Recognising the importance of prioritising your child’s best interests and cooperating with your ex-spouse can lead to an easier transition for all parties involved in the divorce process.

Clarity Lawyers Blog Property Settlement Divorce Australia

Property Settlement: Division of Assets and Liabilities

Divorce almost always involves the division of assets and liabilities, which can be a complex and contentious process. Ensuring a fair and equitable property settlement is essential to protect the financial interests of both parties.

This process involves:

  • Identifying and valuing assets and liabilities
  • Determining contributions made by each party
  • Assessing future needs and circumstances
  • Negotiating a settlement agreement
  • Seeking legal advice if necessary

Additionally, spousal maintenance considerations are discussed, and guidance is provided on achieving a fair outcome.

Steps to Reach a Property Settlement

Reaching a fair and equitable property settlement during divorce requires careful negotiation and planning. The divorcing couple can work through their own property settlement agreement or if they are unable to come to an agreement, they may apply to the Court for a property settlement. The court will consider various factors, including:

  • Financial contributions made by each party
  • Non-financial contributions made by each party
  • Future needs of each party
  • Best interests of any children involved

By understanding the steps involved in reaching a property settlement and working together with your ex-spouse, you can ensure that your financial interests are protected, and a just outcome is achieved.

In some cases, couples may choose to engage in mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods to reach a property settlement agreement when they decide to get a divorce. These approaches can potentially reduce conflict, save on legal costs, and lead to a more satisfactory outcome for both parties.

As with all aspects of divorce, it’s important to take into account your unique circumstances and seek professional advice when necessary.

Understanding Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is financial support provided by one spouse to the other after separation or divorce, intended to assist the financially disadvantaged spouse in meeting their reasonable living expenses.

In Australia, eligibility for spousal maintenance is determined based on the receiving spouse’s financial need and the paying spouse’s capacity to provide support – and it’s not a guaranteed or automatic entitlement. Spousal maintenance must be applied for.

The court plays a significant role in determining spousal maintenance payments, taking into account factors such as the age and health of the parties, their income and earning capacity, and the standard of living established during the marriage. Comprehending the concept of spousal maintenance and its potential impact on your financial situation during divorce is important for protecting your financial interests and ensuring a fair outcome.

Preparing Your Divorce Application: Essential Documentation

Filing a divorce application requires the gathering and submission of essential documents, which can be a time-consuming and complex process. Below we will discuss the required documentation for a divorce application and filing methods.

Gathering Necessary Documents

To file a divorce application, you will need to gather several essential documents, including:

  • Your marriage certificate
  • Valid identification
  • If your marriage took place outside of Australia or your marriage certificate is not in English, you will also need to provide a translated copy of the certificate, along with an Affidavit of Translation from a certified translator.

Ensuring that you have all the necessary documentation before filing your divorce application can help to minimise delays and complications during the divorce process. Being organised and meticulous during document collection is important, as any missing or incorrect information can cause delays in your divorce proceedings.

Filing Your Application: Online and Offline Methods

Filing a divorce application can be done either online or offline, depending on your preference and circumstances. Online filing, also known as e-filing, allows you to complete the application electronically through platforms such as the Commonwealth Courts Portal. This method is convenient and efficient, potentially leading to faster processing times. However, it may be subject to technical issues and requires internet access.

Offline filing, on the other hand, involves completing a physical Application for Divorce form and submitting it to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in person. This method allows for in-person interaction with court personnel, which can be helpful for addressing any questions or concerns. However, it may require additional time and effort to travel to the court and submit the application.

In the end, the choice between online and offline filing will depend on your personal needs and circumstances.

Dealing with Special Circumstances in Divorce

Some divorces may involve special circumstances that require additional care and consideration, such as domestic violence or an absent spouse.

When Domestic Violence Affects Divorce

Domestic violence can have a significant impact on divorce proceedings, as it may necessitate additional legal protections and interventions for the victim. In cases of domestic violence, it is crucial to prioritise the safety and well-being of all parties involved, particularly any children affected by the situation. Protective measures, such as obtaining an Intervention Order or Family Violence Order through the Magistrates’ Court, should be considered to ensure the safety of the victim and their children.

In addition to protecting the victim’s safety, the court may also take domestic violence into account when deciding on property settlements and parenting arrangements under the Family Law Act 1975. Engaging a family lawyer with experience in domestic violence cases can provide invaluable support and guidance during this difficult time, ensuring that your rights are protected and the best possible outcome is achieved.

Applying for Divorce with an Absent Spouse

Applying for divorce when your spouse is absent or cannot be located presents unique challenges and may require alternative methods of service. In such cases, you can still proceed with a sole application for divorce by completing the necessary paperwork and serving the documents to your absent spouse. If your spouse cannot be located, the special rules of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia must be followed for service by mail.

Seeking legal advice is necessary when dealing with an absent spouse during divorce proceedings, as the process can be intricate and require additional documentation and requirements. A divorce lawyer can guide you through the necessary steps and ensure that your divorce can proceed smoothly, even in the absence of your spouse. It is crucial to seek legal advice early on to avoid complications.

Clarity Lawyers Blog Divorce Legal Fees Australia

Financial Considerations: Costs and Fees Associated with Divorce

Divorce can be a costly process, with various expenses and fees associated with legal representation, court filings, and property settlements on top of potential financial support required.

Understanding the Filing Fee

The filing fee for a divorce application in Australia is currently $1,060. This fee is payable to the court when submitting your application and may be subject to reductions or exemptions under certain circumstances.

Comprehending the filing fee and any potential reductions can assist you in budgeting for this expense and ensuring that your divorce application is correctly submitted.

Managing Legal Expenses

Legal expenses during divorce can vary widely depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the level of legal representation required, and the duration of the proceedings. Typical legal fees for a divorce in Australia can range from $1,000 to $3,000, plus the filing fee of $1060. To manage these costs, it is essential to carefully evaluate the level of legal representation you require and consider potential cost-sharing arrangements with your spouse.

In some cases, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or negotiation may help to reduce legal expenses by avoiding costly court proceedings.

Many people avoid seeking legal help, believing it to be a costly exercise. And while it does cost money for the most part, when you carefully evaluate your financial and legal circumstances with a professional’s help, you may save more money in the long run. You can also ensure that you make informed decisions about your divorce.


Navigating the complexities of divorce in Australia can be challenging, but this comprehensive step-by-step guide has provided valuable insights and guidance to help you understand the process and make informed decisions. By considering factors such as eligibility, legal representation, and financial implications, you can better prepare for your divorce journey and achieve the best possible outcome for your unique circumstances.

If you’re looking for support during your separation and divorce in Australia, get in touch with our team of divorce lawyers here at Clarity Lawyers. Our family law firm is dedicated to ensuring that your rights are protected and you can move forward with your life in the best position possible.

Our divorce law services are available Australia-wide from our base in Newcastle and Maitland, New South Wales. Get in touch with us by calling us on (02) 4058 4007 or booking a free, no obligation consultation here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Australia?

It typically takes 4 months to obtain a final Divorce Order in Australia, from the date of filing the application for divorce in Court until the Divorce Order is issued by the Court. This time may be longer if difficulties arise when serving your spouse.

How do I separate from my husband?

Be courteous and discuss the various options for pathways to amicable divorce. Choose a family mediator and/or lawyer, see a counsellor and/or doctor, and wait to start a new relationship – these are all tips for starting a healthy separation.

Can we separate but live in the same home?

Yes, in fact many couples do just that. This may be due to financial constraints or parenting responsibilities. If you do remain living together during your 12 month separation period, you may need to show additional proof of your relationship ending.

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Rli Samantha@2x
Samantha Miller

Samantha has been a lawyer since 2001 having followed in the steps of her father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. No one can say she didn’t know what she was getting into!

Initially admitted in 2001 as a solicitor in NSW and Australia, Samantha moved to the UK where she was admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 2002. After working in several different areas of the law in large London firms, she determined that family law was her calling and hasn’t looked back.


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