The procedures and requirements set out by the family law courts in Australia
As with most legal processes, divorce in Australia requires you to follow strict procedures and timelines. Whilst you may separate from your partner at any time, divorce is a lengthier process which will require the court’s involvement.
Fortunately, Australian divorce law is a fairly simplified process when compared to the legalities of other countries. However, there are still procedures which must be adhered to. In this blog, we discuss the timeline affiliated with divorce in Australia and provide tips for the most streamlined and time-efficient divorce experience.
Australia has a ‘no-fault’ jurisdiction, meaning that a court does not consider which partner was at fault in the marriage breakdown. The only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, which is demonstrated by 12 months of separation. Even so, you should expect the divorce process to take a minimum of four months from when you file for divorce and when the divorce order is issued by the court.
A divorce order will arrive one month and one day after a successful divorce hearing. For example, if your divorce hearing was on June 1st, your divorce order would issue on July 2nd.
You should not make plans to remarry until after you have received the divorce order from the court. Remarrying prior to receiving this order is an offence in Queensland known as bigamy, punishable by imprisonment, and your new marriage can be declared void.
Before filing for divorce
It’s important to note that you must be separated for 12 months prior to filing for divorce. Australian Family Law recognises ‘separation under the one roof’, in which you and your partner separate but remain living together. In this instance, you will need to prove that you were separated during this time. A Family Law Specialist can assist in this process.
If you separate and come back together for a period of fewer than three months, you must simply prove that you were separated for a total of 12 months. For example, if you separated on 1 January 2020, reconciled on 1 June 2020, but then separated again on August 1st 2020, then you would be eligible to file for divorce on 2 March 2021; a total of 12 months separated. If you separate and come back together for a period longer than three months, the time resets.
The application process
Following the 12-month separation period, you can file for divorce yourself or jointly with your spouse. If you apply yourself, not jointly, then your spouse will need to be served with the divorce court documents. This can take time, particularly if you are unaware of your spouse’s location.
A joint application is easier as neither party have to be served with the court documents. If you and your partner are in agreement regarding the divorce and are still in contact, filing a joint application can assist in streamlining the divorce process as you will not have to wait for your spouse to be served
In setting a date for the court hearing, the court will consider whether it was an individual or joint application and therefore whether they need to allow time for one party to be served with court documents.
Divorce documents can be served via the post, through a legal service or in person. You yourself cannot serve your spouse in person, but any other person over the age of 18 can do so. This may be a friend or family member, if not a professional process server.
Employing a professional process server may reduce the time required to fulfil this step and they will usually complete an Affidavit of Service for filing, however, do consider that there will be fees involved in this process.
Married less than two years?
Keep in mind, if you have been married for less than two years, there are additional steps that precede filing for a divorce order. You will need to obtain a Counselling Certificate, which proves to the court that you have received professional counselling and considered reconciliation, or only one party attended such counselling and the was invited to attend but did not.
Engaging an Accredited Family Law Specialist will ensure that all the necessary procedures are followed correctly and accurately in the lead up to your divorce hearing, lowering the possibilities of the court adjourning the hearing to a later date which can delay the divorce order being made.
Ensure your divorce is as streamlined as possible – enlist the professionals. Shannon Daykin, Daykin Family Law’s Director, is an Accredited Family Law Specialist, with a wealth of experience and expertise in property settlement, parenting agreements and all other aspects of family law.