DIY Divorce

just divorced carDo you meet the requirements for a DIY divorce?

Normally, there shouldn’t be any obstacles to you filing your own divorce application without the need and cost of a lawyer. It’s a pretty simple process and can be done by simply filling in a form, and either dropping it in or mailing it to the court. You can also save yourself the stamp (or the walk to court) and file your divorce application on-line.

But there are a few exceptions where you will have to appear in court:

• You must attend the divorce hearing if you have  a child of the marriage who is under 18 years and the application your filing is a “sole” application (as opposed to a “joint” application by you and your spouse).

• You also have to attend the divorce hearing if you have filed a response to the divorce, where you wish to reply to or disagree with something in spouse’s “sole” application. If you don’t appear, what is being asked for by your spouse may be granted in your absence.

The Application for Divorce Kit

The Federal Circuit Court in conjunction with the Family Court have a really easy to follow divorce kit. This kit provides the steps in applying for and obtaining a divorce and also includes the application for divorce form.
ALL divorce applications now must be done online (please see next paragraph for more info on this).

There are some documents you need to file when you’re doing your divorce application.

These ‘supporting documents’ include a copy of your marriage certificate (or an official translation of it if it’s not in English).
You may also need a supporting document might be where part of the 12 month period you were separated was spent under the same roof, so an affidavit regarding this must be filed.

Also, if the Application is not a “joint” application, the person applying for the divorce must serve a copy on their spouse and then file an “Affidavit of Service” (as well as an “Acknowledgement of Service”, if appropriate).
The court will send you back a sealed copy of your application. This will arrive in your online account and then you print this out and send it to your ex by registered mail.

eFiling of divorce applications

vint. computer and womanIn Australia, your Divorce Application must now be done online over the internet. Filing in person or at the court is now not possible unless you have an exceptional circumstance for not e-filing. The new system has great advantages as it saves time and money.
You apply for divorce online using the interactive Application for Divorce form on the Commonwealth Courts Portal (
As mentioned above, you must also eFile certain accompanying documents like your marriage certificate, affidavits and supporting documents. For these documents you should make a copy of the original and then take the copy AND the original to a Justice of the Police, police station or community legal centre to get them certified. You would then scan the certified copy and put it on your Commonwealth Court Portal account. If you’re confused about how to do this ‘scanning and saving’ just ask a friend whose more computer savvy to assist you. Even I had to get some help when this method first started a few years ago! 

For more information see the Commonwealth Courts Portal’s user guide and the How do I Apply for Divorce page.


Even though you may wish to do your application without the assistance of a lawyer, there is still a filing fee for any Application for Divorce. The fee must be paid at the same time as you submit your on-line application.  Credit Card payments can be made by Visa or Mastercard. Debit cards/eftpos are also accepted. 

In some cases a reduced fee may apply if:

♦ You hold certain government concession cards (health care card, pensioner concession card, Commonwealth seniors health card or any other card issued by the Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that certifies your entitlement to Commonwealth health concessions)

♦ You are receiving youth allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY payments

♦ You have been granted Legal Aid, or

♦ You are aged 18 or under, or an inmate of a prison or legally detained in a public institution.

Finally, you may also qualify if you can demonstrate financial hardship.

The current fees to file an application for divorce are:
$900 or $300 if you qualify for the reduced rate. For more information see the Family Law fees section.

And for those in Western Australia, the Family Court of WA handles your application for divorce and all the above payment methods are accepted. The WA Registry office will also accept cash. The same fees apply as in the Federal Circuit Court. For more WA information on fees see their Family Law fees section.

Once your Application for Divorce is processed it is allocated a hearing date in the court. If you are not responding to your spouse’s divorce application or you and your spouse are submitting a “joint” application, you will normally not have to attend court.

If you have made a “sole” application and there is a child of the marriage under 18 years, you (the applicant) are required to attend the court hearing unless circumstances prevent you from attending. For example, circumstances might be the long distance from the court or your incapacity.

If there is no Response to Divorce, the other party is not required to attend, although they may do if they wish.

If a respondent has completed and filed a Response to Divorce, but does not oppose the application, he or she does not need to attend the hearing.

After the court has granted a divorce order, the court makes the order one month and one day after your hearing. Your divorce then becomes final and they will post the divorce order to each of you.


What happens if it goes to Court?

courtroom 2 womenSo as mentioned, there should only be a few reasons why you end up in court for a hearing about your divorce application.
You must attend the divorce hearing if:

◊ There is a child of the marriage under 18 years AND the application is a “sole” application (rather than a “joint” application)  This is so the Judge knows that the parenting arrangements for your kids have been properly organised.

◊ You have filed a ‘response’ to the divorce.

It is usually a Registrar of the court (a court appointed lawyer) who presides over your hearing and makes the decision like whether your divorce will be granted.

At the hearing, the court considers whether your divorce should be granted. With this in mind, remember that the court doesn’t want to know all the ins and outs of why you are getting divorced, or any property, maintenance or child support concerns you might have. These things require separate applications to the court.

However, what the court DOES want to know (where there are children under 18), is that adequate arrangements that have been made for the care and well being of those children. The court grants a divorce order only when it is satisfied about what arrangements have been made for the children and in the case of a sole application, that the other spouse was served correctly. If either of you are responding to a divorce application the court will also hear you out on anything you are concerned about.

After the court has granted a divorce order, the court makes the order one month and one day after your hearing. Your divorce then becomes final and they will post the divorce order to each of you.

Here’s a short video providing tips about preparing for court and what the court will expect from you.