The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has the jurisdiction or power to deal with dissolution of marriage (i.e. divorce) under Part VI of the Family Law Act 1975.
You may prepare your own divorce application or ask a lawyer to do it for you.
Note: Divorce proceedings do not finalise any arrangements regarding parenting and property/finances. If you wish to seek these types of orders you will need to file a separate application. See Applications and orders how do I’s.
Note: Same-sex couples whose marriages are recognised can access Australia's divorce system if they meet the requirements for divorce under the Family Law Act 1975, regardless of when the marriage was solemnised. See Marriage equality in Australia on the Attorney-General's Department website and the Fact Sheet, Family Law implications of the recognition of same-sex marriages for further information.
Applications for Divorce (Same-sex couples) cannot be completed online at this stage. Please contact the National Enquiry Centre for more information.
Before you start...
You can apply for a divorce by yourself (sole application) or together with the other party to the marriage (joint application).
Before you start your application it is important to understand whether to file a sole or joint application, as there are different obligations in either case. Choose the headings below for specific information you need to know before starting an application.
If you make a sole application, you are known as the applicant and the other party is known as the respondent. You will need to tell the court at Question 1 on the application. Only you as the applicant are required to sign the application at Part G. The respondent does not need to sign Part G however you do need to serve the application on the respondent. For more information see the Service tab below, under the What happens next heading.
Court attendance is not required if there are no children of the marriage.
Court attendance is required if there are children under the age of 18 years.
For a joint application, both parties are known as joint applicants. Both applicants must sign the application at Part G. You do not need to serve documents on the other party if you make a joint application.
Court attendance is not required if you file a joint application.
Court attendance is required if you select to attend at Q2(a).
You must be eligible to apply for a divorce in Australia (select yes or no to proceed to next step)
1. You (or the other party to the marriage) must answer YES to at least one of the following:
- Were born in Australia or have become an Australian citizen by descent (born outside Australia and at least one parent was an Australian citizen and your birth is registered in Australia).
- Are an Australian citizen by grant of Australian citizenship (a citizenship certificate will be required).
- Are lawfully present in Australia and intend to continue living in Australia. You must have been living in Australia for at least the last 12 months - evidence must be provided e.g. your passport showing the date of arrival at least one year prior and a valid or current visa.
Do you or the other party to the marriage meet one of these requirements?
If you are currently living overseas and meet the above criteria, you must provide an address for service in Australia. If you cannot provide an address in Australia and you wish to use your spouse’s address as your address for service you and your spouse should prepare and file an affidavit each with your application verifying that you are still separated and explaining why your address for service is the same.
2. Has your marriage broken down and there is no reasonable likelihood that you will get back together?
This information is required at question 15 of the application. If you are applying on your own, you should not refer to the intention of your spouse unless you can provide further information as to how you knew what your spouse's intention was at the time. You should be prepared to provide the court with information, if it is required, about what happened or what was said on the date of separation to show that one or both of you intended to end the marriage.
3. Have you been separated for 12 months and 1 day or longer?
To get a divorce you must have been separated for 12 months and 1 day or longer. Sometimes separated couples are still living together in the same home – see information at the heading below Separated and living at the same address in the last 12 months.
This information is required at question 14 of the application. You are not required to provide evidence at the time of application, but if the other party disputes the separation date you may be required to provide affidavit evidence at a later stage.
4. Do you have your marriage certificate? If you were married overseas it is important to read More information as you may need to have your marriage certificate translated.
If you were married in Australia you must provide a marriage certificate. You can provide the certificate provided by Births Deaths and Marriage or your ceremonial certificate. If you do not have a marriage certificate contact the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages in your state or territory.
It is important to make sure that the names at Q.13 are the same as on your marriage certificate otherwise you may be required to provide further evidence.
If you were married overseas and your marriage certificate is not in English you will need to have the certificate translated and attach both documents to an Affidavit of Translation of Marriage Certificate from the translator. The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd (NAATI) has a directory of NAATI accredited and recognised practitioners who offer translating and interpreting services. If you are unable to obtain a marriage certificate from overseas you must provide an Affidavit setting out the details of the marriage and the reasons why you are unable to provide the certificate.
Check each of the headings below in case they are relevant to you. Each heading has information you may need before you apply.
If you need help to complete the application or are unsure about whether you are eligible to file for divorce, you should obtain legal advice.
It is important to obtain some independent legal advice in relation to your situation. A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. They can also explain how the law applies to your case. A lawyer may also be able to help you reach an agreement without going to court. The court is unable to provide legal advice because to do so could seriously compromise the court's ability to impartially determine a case if a person then applies to the court seeking orders.
The Family Relationship Advice Line (FRAL) can help you with free legal advice and information about services available to assist anybody with family relationship issues - call 1800 050 321 (+61 7 3423 6878 if you are overseas). You should advise FRAL that you are seeking legal advice and they will take your details and a lawyer will call you back. FRAL will advise you of a timeframe on the call back, you should advise if it is urgent.
Alternatively, the Australian government funds a range of legal assistance services that may be able to assist you, including Legal Aid Commissions and individual Community Legal Centres, which offer free and low cost advice. Information to assist with finding legal services is available from the Attorney-General's Department website.
To obtain a certificate you will need to attend counselling. To arrange counselling contact the Family Relationship Advice Line (FRAL) on 1800 050 321. If you are unable to attend counselling with your spouse you will need to file an affidavit as per the fact sheet.
If you have been separated and living in the same residence for any part of the twelve months prior to filing your application you will need to provide extra evidence to prove that there has been a change in the marriage by preparing and filing an affidavit. See Separated but living under one roof for more information. If you are filing a joint application both parties should file an affidavit. In both types of applications (sole and joint) you should also ask a third person to file an affidavit to corroborate your evidence.
If there are children of the marriage who are under 18 years of age it is important to provide particulars of the arrangements in Part F of the application including housing, if not at school - care arrangements, schooling - grade and progress - care before and after school, health of the child/ren, contact with each parent and if no contact, why?, financial support provided for the child/ren if not, why not?
A child of the marriage includes:
- any child of you and your spouse, including children born before the marriage or after separation
- any child adopted by you and your spouse, or
- any child who was treated as a member of your family prior to your final separation; for example, a step-child or foster child.
The divorce application asks for your spouse's address for service. If you are unable to locate your spouse, even after you have taken all reasonable steps to locate them you can put their address as 'unknown'. You will need to upload a further application seeking an order to dispense with service or for substituted service. For more information see: Cannot serve the divorce documents section of the How do I serve a divorce page.
A fee of $900 is payable or you may be eligible for a reduced fee of $300. To see if you are eligible go to Guidelines for fee reduction.
If you are eligible for a reduced fee you will need to provide evidence. For example if you hold a health care card, you will need to provide a photocopy of your card (both sides). If you are filing a sole application only the applicant needs to be eligible for the reduced fee. If you are filing a joint application both parties must be eligible for the reduced fee - if only one party is eligible the full fee applies.
If you are not eligible for the reduced fee, but payment of the full fee will cause you financial hardship you can apply for the reduced fee due to your financial hardship. You should complete the Application for reduction of payment of divorce or decree of nullity - financial hardship for consideration. You are unable to eFile in these circumstances.
The filing fee is payable at the time of filing the application using a Mastercard or Visa credit/debit card via the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
Helpful Hint: Did you know that you can purchase a reloadable prepaid Visa debit card from the post office for a nominal fee?
Apply for a Divorce
You can register on the Commonwealth Courts Portal and apply electronically by completing the online interactive Application for Divorce unless you are not eligible for a fee reduction and will be applying under financial hardship. To register for the portal go to How do I register and eFile an application for divorce. It is important to read steps 1 to 10 at How do I start eFiling the application once I am registered at this link to get started.
If you are already registered for the Commonwealth Courts Portal, log in and go to even if you have previous proceedings. Divorce is dealt with separately to other types of family law proceedings. Even if you are already registered it is important to read steps 1 to 10 at How do I start eFiling the application once I am registered in the above link to get started.
Important note: Once your divorce is finalised, a divorce order will be available to download on the portal. Divorce orders are no longer posted to parties. Even if you are unable to eFile you should register on the portal after you file the application at a registry so you can access your divorce order once it is finalised. Once you receive a sealed copy of the application back from the court email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your file number, full name, date of birth and the name of the other party so we can verify your identity and proceed with the registration and/or provide access to your electronic file.
What happens next?
You may need to file additional documents to support your application for divorce that you were not required to file when you completed the application e.g. further affidavits. For help see How do I eFile further documents to support my application for divorce?
If you file the application together with your spouse you are joint applicants and you are not required to do anything else.
If you file the application by yourself as a sole applicant, you are required to serve the Application for Divorce on the other party. See How do I serve a divorce? for details and a helpful video.
If you are unable to effect service on your spouse, even after you have taken all reasonable steps to locate them, see Cannot serve the divorce documents in the link above.
Court attendance is only required if you have filed a sole application and there is a child of the marriage aged under 18 years at the time of filing or you have indicated that you wish to attend in question 2(a) of the application. You should attend if you are applying for an order for substituted service or a dispensation of service in the circumstances when you cannot find the respondent to serve the court documents - see information about Service above. It is also advisable to attend if you are required to provide additional affidavit material to explain circumstances such as separation under the same roof/ married less than two years and other situations which may impact on the outcome of your matter. You should bring all documents with you to court including a copy of your application and service documents.
If it is difficult for you to attend in person you can ask the court to appear by telephone, you need to do this as soon as possible after you have filed the application. You should request this using the Telephone/Video link attendance request form which can be eFiled. See r.25.11 FCCR 2001 for more information. If your request to attend by telephone is not confirmed you should follow up by email.
If you are required to attend the hearing see tips for your court hearing and the court tour video which provides a guide to the courtroom and court etiquette.
Once the divorce is granted it will be finalised one month and one day later unless a special order is made by the court to shorten that time. Your divorce order will be made available to you through the Commonwealth Courts Portal after the order has become final. The divorce order has an electronic seal and signature and is an original order. The court no longer posts hard copies of divorce orders. This divorce order is the only official and original record the court issues and is evidence that a divorce order has been made.
Divorce orders are available on the Commonwealth Courts Portal. If you are not registered, we can register you on the portal and provide you with access to your electronic file. If you have already registered but do not have access to your electronic file, we can provide you with access. Email us on email@example.com and provide your file number (if known), full name, date of birth and the name of the other party so we can verify your identity and proceed with the registration and/or provide access to your electronic file. For more information see How do I access orders.