For thousands of Australian couples every year, divorce becomes the inevitable end to a marriage. While certainly difficult both emotionally and logistically, having a thorough understanding of the divorce process can make this transition less painful.
Here’s an in-depth look at what to expect when getting a divorce in Australia in 2023.
A requirement of being able to apply for a divorce in Australia is to complete a separation period of at least 12 months. This is a time to live separate lives and show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. On the other hand, it also allows for reflection and even the chance of reconciliation.
The 12 month separation period may involve each person finding alternative living arrangements or only one person doing so. In some cases, separated couples may choose to remain living under the same roof and this could be due to financial restrictions or parenting arrangements.
Starting the Divorce Application
To be able to actually get divorced in Australia, an application form must be lodged with the Federal Circuit Court. This application requires you to provide background details like the date and place of your marriage, names and birthdates of any children, and what led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
You’ll also need to pay a filing fee when submitting your divorce application – click here for up-to-date fee information. This covers administrative costs and processing of the paperwork and the payment can be made by one party or split by both. It is possible to apply for a reduced divorce filing fee or even a complete waiver if you can demonstrate serious financial hardship.
An application for divorce can be made solely or jointly with your former spouse. A sole application may require you to serve divorce documents to your former spouse, while a joint application does not have this requirement.
Working with Divorce Lawyers
Hiring an experienced family law solicitor to assist with your divorce is not legally required but is strongly advisable. Navigating the intricate regulations around property settlements, child custody arrangements, spousal maintenance, and more without professional legal help can be extremely difficult.
Capable divorce lawyers will ensure all paperwork is accurately completed, represent you in court if disputes arise, and work to secure you fair settlements regarding assets, finances, and children. If budget is a concern, have an open conversation with prospective lawyers about fees and billing practices. You can contain costs through options like fixed fee agreements, payment plans, or limiting their role to advice without formal representation.
Working with a lawyer doesn’t necessarily have to be ongoing either, you can simply contact us for initial advice, which gives you an opportunity to understand where you stand and what you need to do. For more information on why seeking legal advice early is a good idea – click here.
Understanding Grounds for Divorce
In Australia’s no-fault divorce system, you don’t need to prove fault or blame on the part of your spouse when filing for divorce. The only ground required is evidence that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown, which is usually demonstrated by 12 months of separation prior to applying for divorce.
However, issues like abuse, addiction problems, or infidelity by your partner can still be useful to mention in divorce proceedings if relevant to negotiating property and parenting arrangements. Don’t hold off applying for divorce just because fault grounds like adultery can’t be cited as the reason. Focus instead on evidencing the irreparable deterioration of the marriage.
Reaching Agreement on Splitting Assets
Dividing up assets equitably is often one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. Deciding who gets what share of homes, other property, investments, cars, furniture, collectibles, businesses, superannuation, and more can quickly become complicated.
The goal is generally an equal split based on assessing contributions, both financial and non-financial, that each spouse made over the course of the marriage. But achieving agreement on what is fair and equitable asset division can be difficult, especially with complex asset portfolios.
If you and your former partner can’t reach agreement, the Federal Circuit and Family Court can make legally binding rulings on how property and finances will be split. Having an experienced divorce lawyer arguing your case makes a big difference in the share of assets you ultimately receive through this process.
Separating Divorce from Other Disputes
It’s important to understand that an Australian divorce application only directly addresses one issue – legally ending the marriage. Child custody, spousal maintenance, property division and other issues arising from separation may still require extensive negotiation and litigation even after the divorce goes through.
Some couples find it preferable to resolve parenting plans, asset division, and spousal support prior to filing for divorce. Others choose to finalise the divorce first to reduce tensions, provide emotional closure, and severed ties sooner. There’s no right approach, but don’t assume gaining a divorce order means you’re done untangling yourself from your former spouse.
How Quickly Can a Divorce Happen?
If both partners agree to the divorce and cooperate fully, the typical timeframe from filing a divorce application to having the divorce order granted is approximately 4-6 months. However, when disputes around children, asset splits, or financial support enter the picture, this timeline often blows out significantly.
Litigating contested issues like property settlements, custody arrangements, or spousal maintenance can easily extend the divorce process to 12-18 months or longer. Delays are also common if one partner obstructs the process by refusing to sign paperwork or concede to reasonable settlement offers.
Factors like appeals, valuation complexities with assets like businesses or overseas properties, or errors in your original divorce filing that require correcting can also lengthen divorce timeframes. Patience and keeping your lawyers aligned on moving things forward is key.
Your Mental Health During Divorce
Alongside the legal complexities, it’s easy to underestimate the psychological impacts of divorce. The emotional toll of unravelling a marriage, however dysfunctional, can take its toll. It’s common to experience anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, and many other difficult feelings.
Practising regular self-care, establishing support networks, seeing a counsellor or psychologist, and allowing yourself time to grieve this major life change are essential. The legal side of divorce deals primarily with practical matters. But looking after your mental health and emotional recovery is a crucial parallel process.
Protecting Children’s Interests
When children are involved, a divorce becomes even more emotionally fraught. Minimising disruption to kids’ lives as much as realistically possible should be a priority for both parents. Yet bitter disputes over custody arrangements and child support payments often undermine children’s best interests.
Again, experienced family lawyers can help negotiate parenting plans that reasonably balance children’s needs with parents’ wishes. Insist any child custody disputes get resolved through mediation and compromise, not litigation. And if you’re a lower income parent, ensure you get adequate child support to provide a stable home life.
Talk to a Family Lawyer Today
Going through a divorce in Australia involves paperwork, (potentially) lawyers, dividing property, uncoupling divorce from related disputes, managing delays, and caring for your mental health. Budgeting for legal fees, being realistic on timeframes, and keeping children’s interests above petty disputes makes navigating divorce far smoother. With preparation and perseverance, divorcing doesn’t have to be the traumatic experience it’s often portrayed as.
If you’ve recently separated, you’re already involved in a dispute due to a divorce, or you’re considering ending your marriage, our experienced family law team here at Clarity Lawyers can help you.
We provide advice, as well as guidance, support and representation for family law matters, like divorce, property settlements and parenting matters. You don’t need to go through your divorce alone.