Statistics suggest that in Australia up to 33% of marriages are expected to end in divorce. So, the likelihood of needing to engage a family lawyer's services to help you is quite high. If you are experiencing marital problems and wondering how to apply for a divorce, then check out this essential seven-step guide by New South Lawyers’ family law team, for a breakdown of everything you need to know.

How to apply for a divorce: Step 1 - Separation

To be able to get divorced in Australia you need to start by showing that your marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. This is demonstrated by being separated for 12 months or more, and there being no likelihood of the relationship resuming.According to the law, separation generally means living apart from each other. However, it is possible to be ‘separated under one roof’ if certain criteria are met. While there are no official legal processes to separate (such as applying to a court or a government organisation) you will need to demonstrate that you and your spouse have been separated in order for divorce proceedings to officially commence.Some couples may opt to avoid proceeding with divorce proceedings and instead simply remain separated. Why you are not legally required to divorce, separation may affect your legal rights - such as the right to remarry.

First we file in Family Court

Following this period of separation, the next step in commencing proceedings for the dissolution of your marriage is to apply for a divorce through the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.According to Ruby, this can be done either by yourself (sole application) or together with the other party to the marriage (joint application). If you make a sole application, you are known as the applicant, while other party is known as the respondent. In a joint application, both parties are known as joint applicants.It is worthwhile to note that If you have been married for less than two years, you will also need to file a counselling certificate, which can only be obtained by attending counselling.The next step in your divorce proceedings (assuming you file a sole application) is to serve the application to the other party, in order to obtain their signature. This is where the services of good family lawyers are indispensable. Once both parties have signed these applications, a number of supporting divorce papers need to be prepared. These include a copy of your marriage certificate. Again, this is where the services of experienced family lawyers are vital.

Physical attendance & Family Court fees

To file your documents, you can either physically attend your local Family Courts registry or file in person. Alternatively, you can file your documents by post. With both options, you are required to pay a family court filing fee.

Signed, sealed, delivered 

After you file the documents, the court will process your application and allocate a court hearing date (generally a couple of months from the date of filing). The Family Court will also officially stamp the original and two photocopies of your application with the court seal - rendering them ‘sealed’ documents as a result.

Done & dusted

Shortly after you lodge your divorce papers, you will be informed of a court hearing date. If your divorce papers are in order and contain all the necessary information, the court will go ahead and make a divorce order at this hearing. The divorce order will become official one month and one day after the court hearing date.

But what about the children...

As the first step in making child custody agreements, parents are generally encouraged to reach mutual solutions without legal intervention after a divorce. However, failing this the next step is generally attending Family Dispute Resolution sessions. If this is unsuccessful the matter may then proceed to court

... And property divisions ... 

Similarly, parties to a divorce are generally encouraged to attend mediation sessions to reach an out-of-court resolution to the division of property and assets post-divorce. If this proves unsuccessful then parties may need to continue proceedings in court.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.