Around 90,000 couples get married each year, and 56,000 couples will get divorced.
Divorce is the end of something and whilst no one sets out on their married life with the intention of getting divorced it is just a harsh reality that people change. They fall out of love, and they want to end their marriage.
Whilst sometimes both parties reach an agreement that a relationship has come to an end, often that isn’t the case. But whatever the circumstances it is always laden with emotion. Our job is to help you with the complex legal issues, help you manage the emotions, and help you get back on track with your life as quickly as possible. We have access to all the resources you will need.
No Fault Divorce
Divorce in Australia is “no fault”. Simply put, from the perspective of the law it doesn’t matter who has done what to whom, when or where. If one or the other party wants a divorce, they are legally entitled to seek one.
Around 56,000 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.
There are around 90,000 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 married.
Around 80% of couples have a period of cohabitation before marriage Around 1 in 10 (well over 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.
Children and Divorce
Around half of all couples who divorce have children. The reality of divorce means that many children live without regular contact with one or other of their parents after separation. Based on census data, of the 5 million children in Australia aged 17 or under, 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. One quarter saw the other parent 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. 11% lived in blended families.
Queensland leads, NT is last
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.
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 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.
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.
- Either you or your spouse regards Australia as your home and intend to live in Australia indefinitely.
- If you are an Australian citizen by birth, descent or by a grant of Australian citizenship.
- Or you ordinarily live in Australia and have done so for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce.
- You will have to satisfy the Court that you and your spouse have lived separately for at least 12 months
- You will have to state that there is no reasonable likelihood of resuming married life.
The Next Steps After Deciding to Seek a Divorce
Once you have separated and have decided that you are going to seek a divorce, consider taking some initial steps:
Reorganise your finances
- Close or freeze any joint accounts: Talk to your bank to establish your own pool of money. 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. Always ensure 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. This also applies to any person or company to whom you owe money.
- Do a financial stock take: 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 the property is held in your partner’s sole name to prevent its sale before the final property settlement (such as by lodging caveats). Update your Will.
Who has been looking after the money?
If your partner was the one who took care of the money in the past, you need to find out how things were organised. Then see what changes you need to make 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. This is especially important if you are concerned they might be destroyed or lost for any reason.
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.
Gathering 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 affairs to help get the best outcome.
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 MoneySmart website, including a budget planner to help you manage your income and expenses.
Things to get organised:
- 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.