Applying for a divorce
If you want to apply for a divorce, you need to file an Application for Divorce. You can file a:
- joint application – if you and your spouse agree to get a divorce, or
- sole application.
If you and your spouse file a joint application, one person will be applicant one and the other person will be applicant two.
If you file a sole application, you are the applicant and your spouse is the respondent.
You will need to get your supporting document, complete an Application for Divorce, pay the filing fee, and serve your application on your spouse, if you are making a sole application.
This section covers:
Getting your supporting documents
Before you begin your Application for Divorce, you should get all the documents you will need to file with your application. The documents you need depend on your situation and not everyone will need all of these documents. The documents may include:
- Marriage Certificate
- Change of Name Certificate
- Counselling Certificate
- proof of citizenship document, for example Citizenship Certificate or passport
- visa documents.
You won’t be able to complete your Application for Divorce until you have these documents.
For more information, see Getting your supporting documents.
Preparing your Affidavit
Before you can apply for a divorce, you may need to prepare an Affidavit.
An Affidavit is your evidence that the court will use to decide whether or not to grant you a divorce.
You will need to prepare an Affidavit if:
- you don’t have a copy of your Marriage certificate
- you and your spouse lived in the same home during the 12 month minimum separation period
- you and your spouse have been married for less than two years, and have not attended counselling
- your surname is different from your married or maiden names
- you are having trouble serving your spouse or do not know where they are.
You can address all these issues in one Affidavit.
If you are filing a joint Application for Divorce, your spouse will also need to prepare an Affidavit.
You may also need to get an affidavit from a Third Party.
Step by step guide: Preparing your Affidavit
Applying for a Divorce Order
All Applications for Divorce should be filed online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
You will need access to a printer and scanner.
You have to pay a fee when you file your Application for Divorce.
Currently, an Application for Divorce for same-sex couples can’t be filed online. To file an Application for Divorce, contact the Family Law National Enquiry Centre.
Step by step guide: Applying for a Divorce Order
Applying for a fee reduction
When filing an Application for Divorce, there are two different fee reductions you make an:
- Application for reduction of payment of divorce or decree of nullity - general
- Application for reduction of payment of divorce or decree of nullity - financial hardship.
You may be eligible for a general fee reduction if you:
- have a government concession card, for example, health care card or a pensioner concession card
- have been granted Legal Aid
- receive youth allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY payments
- are under 18 years old
- are in prison or are otherwise detained in a public institution.
If you are not eligible for a fee reduction, you can apply for financial hardship.
If you are successful, you will be able to pay the reduced fee.
Fee reductions only apply to the court fees. They don’t apply to service fees, transcript fees, or fees for copies of Divorce Orders.
For more information, see Guidelines for reduced fee – divorce and decree of nullity application on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.
Step by step guide: Applying for fee reduction
If you are filing a joint Application for Divorce with your spouse, you both must be eligible for the fee reduction or the full fee will apply. If you are filing a sole Application for Divorce, only you need to be eligible for the fee reduction because you are solely responsible for paying the fee. Your spouse won’t have to pay a fee.
Serving your spouse
If you filed a sole Application for Divorce, you will need to serve it on your spouse. If you don’t serve your spouse, the court may adjourn or dismiss your application.
You must serve your spouse at least 28 days before the hearing, if they are in Australia. You must serve your spouse at least 42 days before the hearing, if your spouse is overseas.
You don’t need to serve your Application for Divorce on your spouse if you have filed a joint Application.
For more information about how to serve your spouse overseas, see Serving a legal document across international borders on the Attorney-General’s Department website.
Step by step guide: Serving your spouse
Applying for Substituted or Dispensation of Service Orders
If you can’t serve your spouse, you must ask the court for:
- substituted service - permission to serve them in a different way, or
- dispensation of service – permission not to serve them at all.
If you can’t serve your spouse, and you don’t ask for Substituted Service Orders or Dispensation of Service Orders, your Application for Divorce may be adjourned or dismissed.
Asking the court for Substituted Service Orders or Dispensation of Service Orders may delay your Application for Divorce.
For more information, see Applying for Substituted or Dispensation of Service Orders.
Serving your spouse in prison
There are different rules that you must follow to serve your spouse in prison. It is important that you follow these rules so the court can hear your application.
If you don’t follow these rules, your Application for Divorce may be adjourned or dismissed.
Step by step guide: Serving your spouse in prison