Canberra Divorce? If you need a family lawyer to help you manage your separation, divorce, parenting, custody, and property problems we are experts, we’re for you; for what’s fair.
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In Australia, divorce is defined simply as the legal dissolution of a marriage by the Federal Circuit Court. It is your right to get divorced if your marriage has broken down and it’s what you want. If you are separated and have no expectation of reconciliation you should seriously consider winding up your joint affairs and filing for divorce. The longer you leave it, the more complex it can get. Divorce is not a dirty word. For centuries divorce has been complicated and difficult – and in some cultures and by some religions it is still either illegal or frowned upon. That’s not the case in Australia.
Divorce in Australia is “no fault”. Simply put, from the perspective of family law it doesn’t matter who has done what to whom, when or where, if one or other party wants a divorce, they are in the main legally entitled to seek one.
Divorce is the end of something. No one should ever have set out on their married life with the intention of getting divorced, it is just the harsh reality that people change, they fall out of love, they realise they can’t live with another person, and they want to end their marriage.
Whilst sometimes both parties reach agreement that a relationship has come to an end, often it is acrimonious. Whatever the circumstances it is always laden with emotion. Our job, is to help you through the legal issues whilst you deal with that emotion, and to help you get back on track with your life as quickly as possible. We have access to all the resources you will need.
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How much will my divorce cost?
For a straightforward divorce where the parties are in agreement and you submit a joint application we charge legal fees of $695 (including GST). In addition to this are Court costs ($845 at July 2014) plus any other unusual disbursements (such as having foreign marriage certificates translated).
You need to be aware that your divorce is separate from other family law matters such as property settlement or child custody; you can settle your divorce and start to move on with your personal life, but still continue to work through these other matters.
Divorce is one of the few areas where if both parties are in agreement only one family lawyer needs to be engaged.
Are you entitled to a divorce?
Australia is one of the few countries in the World that have “no fault” divorce proceedings enshrined in law. In the main, it doesn’t matter why one or other party wants a divorce, or what happened to cause the breakdown. As long as you satisfy certain criteria, you are entitled to a divorce.
What are the criteria for a divorce?
You can apply for a divorce in Australia if either you or your spouse regard Australia as your home and intend to live in Australia indefinitely, or you are an Australian citizen by birth, descent or by grant of Australian citizenship, or you ordinarily live in Australia and have done so for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce. You will also have to satisfy the Court that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months, and state there is no reasonable likelihood of resuming married life.
Once you are separated and have decided you are going to seek a divorce, consider taking these initial steps to re-organise your finances.
- Close or freeze any joint accounts: Talk to your bank to establish your own pool of money, and make sure your partner can’t access it if this is likely to be a problem. You may wish to open a new account for your salary or other payments, and always ensuring that ongoing direct debits like mortgage repayments are still taken care of – if you know you are going to be short of cash and unable to pay your bills always talk to your bank or a financial adviser, and anyone or any company to whom you owe money.
- Do a financial stocktake: List all your assets (property that has a value) and any debts (joint or in your name such as mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and utilities). List other resources – money due to come in, family trusts etc.
- Record your turning points: Note down the dates of your separation. To apply for a divorce you will eventually need to prove that you have been separated for at least 12 months.
- Update your rental agreement if you have one: If your name is on the lease then you could be liable for any unpaid rent or damage caused by your partner.
- Seek legal advice. Speak to us about whether you need to do things like freeze any joint accounts (go to your bank if necessary); separate property held in joint names from ‘joint tenancy’ to ‘tenants in common’; take legal action if property is held in your partner’s sole name to prevent its sale before the final property settlement (such as by lodging caveats); or update your Will.
If your partner was the one who took care of the money in the past, you need to find out how things were organised and see if you want to make any changes with a focus on setting yourself up for the future.
Collect all the financial records you can find. Copy them or scan them if you are unable to keep the originals and need to return them. They will be useful when it comes time to work through any property settlement. This can save you costs and delays if you don’t need to wait to have them produced by your partner, especially if you are concerned they might be inadvertently destroyed.
Adjusting to a change in income
When adjusting to a change in income, it’s important to re-establish where your money comes from and where it goes. There are some simple steps to help get you started.
Gather your financial information
If you’re not used to managing your money, getting all your key financial documents together is an important first step. You will need to find and organise your:
- Utility bills (e.g. electricity, gas and phone)
- Credit and store cards bills (e.g. David Jones)
- Investments (managed funds, certain superannuation accounts)
- Property deeds, mortgage papers, home loan details
- Savings and transaction account statements, including any PINs and passwords (but be careful with recording your PINs and passwords)
- Tax records (the last 3 years is a good starting point). This includes copies of any tax returns you can find, as well as the ATO-issued ‘notice of assessment’
- Insurance policies (e.g. income protection, life, health, home and contents, car)
- Superannuation accounts including self-managed ones (your Accountant may be able to help – remember they have a duty to each client and should maintain client confidentiality)
- Wills and estate plans
- Contact details for your accountant and any previously used lawyers (e.g. conveyancing or probate lawyer)
- Business documents, especially if you have been part of any family business.
Plan your income and expenses
- Write down all your income and expenses
- Do a budget and keep it up to date
- Look at what’s essential and what’s not, and if necessary what you might be able to cut back on.
You can find more useful information on the ASIC Money Smart website, including a budget planner to help you manage your income and expenses.
Questions about divorce
We get asked a lot of questions about divorce and the first thing we point out is that you are not alone – many people are either going through or have been through what you are now experiencing. In fact almost everyone will suffer the breakdown of a long term relationship at some time in their life if not first hand, then indirectly through a friend or family member. There’s no shame in it, it’s just part of life – a really difficult and tough part – but you will get through it.
Whilst families are a basic unit in our society, patterns of cohabitation, separation, and divorce have resulted in many differences in family structures. In recent years the rate of marriage has remained stable although Australians have both been marrying when they are older, and delaying having children until later in life. Today, more Australians are in de facto relationships than ever before.
Each year around 5.4 marriages occur for each 1,000 people in our population, that’s around 120,000 marriages each year. The median age at first marriage for women is around 28 and for men is around 30. Around half of all Australians are in a registered marriage.
Nearly 11% of Australians (2 million people) live in a de facto relationship. De facto relationships are most common amongst younger people. Over the last 20 years or so the number of people living in de-facto relationships, young and old, has more or less doubled – including those living in a same-sex relationship – to around 50,000 people. Around 80% of couples now have a period of cohabitation before marriage.
Around 50,000 divorces are granted each year. The median length of marriage before separation is around 9 years, and for divorce around 12.3 years. The median age for women to separate is 38, and for men is around 40.
The highest rates of marriage are in Queensland with 5.9 marriages per 1,000 population and 2.5 divorces per 1,000 population. The Northern Territory has the lowest marriage rate at 4.2, as well as the lowest divorce rate at 1.9.
Around half of all divorces involve children. The reality of divorce means that many children live without regular contact with one or other of their parents (typically the father) after separation. Of the 5 million children in Australia aged less than 17, just over 20% (1 million) had a natural parent living elsewhere – for 80% of these children the parent living elsewhere was their father. Nearly half of these children saw this parent at least once per fortnight, whilst one quarter saw them less than once per year, or never. Nearly 75% of children with a parent living elsewhere were in one parent families, 14% lived in step families, and 11% lived in blended families.
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