As family lawyers in Perth, one common question we hear from our clients going through separation and divorce, is ‘can I apply for a divorce online?’.
Here’s what you need to know about applying for a divorce online.
Can I Apply For A Divorce Online?
The quick answer would be yes, as long as you meet certain criteria, the key one being that at least one spouse believes that the marriage has irretrievably broken down without any hope of reconciliation. You also need to be able to show some connection to Australia to be eligible to apply for divorce here.
Most people choose to divorce online for one reason only, that being to save the costs of hiring a family lawyer. That may well be so in certain cases but there are also many pitfalls, of which one needs to be aware. Divorcing online will still cost you around $940, unless you are eligible for a reduction in the filing fee.
The Family Court makes life easier for divorcing couples by providing “DIY Divorce Kits” which cover all aspects of the process, including the division of assets, and the drawing up of parenting and financial plans. The problem, however, lies in that the Court, in order to retain its impartiality, does not provide legal advice to either spouse, leaving it up to them to negotiate all that between themselves, without them fully knowing what their legal rights are. And that’s where it can become tricky.
It must also be stressed that under Australian Law, if you have been married for less than two years, a Counselling Certificate must be filed with the application and if there are children involved, which is mostly the case, it’s compulsory for divorcing parents to first attempt Family Dispute Resolution, before applying for a Parenting Plan.
How Do I Apply For A Divorce Online?
Make sure all your documents are ready and have access to a scanner, printer and a Visa or MasterCard. First you need to register on the eCourts Portal by going onto https://ecourts.justice.wa.gov.au/eCourtsPortal/. Once registered, you will receive an email with instructions on how to navigate through the portal and print your orders, as well as a list of the necessary documents required to be uploaded. These will include your marriage certificate and a parenting plan, if there are children under 18 years old involved.
Once the application is filed, a hearing date will be allocated for your application to be heard in the Family Court, usually within three months. If the divorce is granted, it will be finalised one month and one day later.
It must be noted that the Court does not deal with financial and property settlements at the same time you apply for a divorce. For those, you will need to make your own agreements or apply for a property or parenting order.
Does My Ex Need To Agree To Divorce Before I Apply Online?
No, there is no law forcing anyone to remain in an irretrievably broken marriage and you don’t need your spouse’s consent to file for divorce. If your spouse is refusing to agree to the divorce, you will need to select ‘sole’ on your application. You will be known as the applicant and your spouse the respondent.
You then need to serve the application to the respondent. The respondent has the right to oppose the application, although there are very few valid reasons why a divorce cannot be granted.
If both spouses are in favour of the divorce, you can both file a joint application, where you are both known as joint applicants. Both applicants need to sign the application, and there is no need to serve it on either party.
How Soon Can I Apply For A Divorce After We Separate?
You need to be have been separated for a minimum of 12 months and one day, before you can apply for a divorce. Evidence of this must be uploaded and submitted to the Court with your application.
You can however choose to settle your financial and children’s matters prior to this.
Is It Easy To Apply For A Divorce Online?
It can be easy, if you fully understand all the legal terminology and are good at navigating through the online divorce application process. But remember the application needs to be perfect or it may cause lengthy delays. A tiny error such as a misspelt name or wrong box ticked could easily result in the Court requesting the application form to be resubmitted or extra documents filed.
It just may be a good idea to use a family lawyer to assist you and ensure every stage of the process is carried out perfectly.
Do I Need A Family Lawyer To Help Me Apply For A Divorce Online?
Legally speaking, no, you don’t need to hire a family lawyer in order to apply for a divorce online.
But considering what is at stake and how easy it is to slip up when navigating through complicated forms, it can be very helpful to choose to use the services of a family lawyer, who will not only help you both to ensure everything is done correctly, but also advise on what your legal rights are.
Want to get divorced but not sure how to start the process?