Information about how to apply for, and respond to an application for, a divorce.

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A divorce is the legal end of a marriage other than by the death of a spouse.

In Australia, a divorce is granted on a no fault basis. This means you don’t need to show to the court who was at fault for the breakdown of your marriage. You only need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you have been separated for at least 12 months.

If you have decided to separate from your spouse, it is important that you understand how to apply for or respond to an Application for Divorce.

A divorce is different to a decree of nullity, which is more commonly known as an annulment. A Decree of Nullity is a court order that there was no legal marriage between the parties, even though a marriage ceremony may have taken place. For more information about decrees of nullity, see Nullity (Invalid marriage) on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.

Divorce is an entirely separate process from property and maintenance. For more information about property settlements and maintenance, see Finance and property.

Divorce applications

If you want to apply for a divorce, you need to file an Application for Divorce. You can file a:

  • joint application – if you and your spouse agree to get a divorce, or
  • sole application.

If you and your spouse file a joint application, one person will be applicant one and the other person will be applicant two.

If you file a sole application, you are the applicant, and your spouse is the respondent.

For more information, see Apply for a divorce.

If you have been served with an Application for Divorce you can:

  • send back the Acknowledgement of Service, or
  • file a Response to Divorce.

If you agree with your spouse’s Application for Divorce, you don’t have to do anything. However, you should send back the Acknowledgement of Service so the Court knows you received the application.

If you don’t agree with your spouse’s application, you can file a Response to Divorce if you want to:

  • oppose your spouse’s Application for Divorce, or
  • correct any errors or dispute any facts contained in your spouse’s Application for Divorce - you can do this even if you want the Court to grant a divorce.

If you file a Response to Divorce and oppose the divorce, you must attend the hearing.

For more information, see Respond to an Application for Divorce.

If you have filed an Application for Divorce but have changed your mind, you can withdraw your application before the divorce hearing. If you withdraw your Application for Divorce, you won’t be able to get a refund.

If you filed a Response to Divorce and you no longer want to oppose or amend any errors in the Application for Divorce, you can withdraw your response before the divorce hearing.

For more information, see Withdraw your Application for Divorce or Response to Divorce.

Divorce hearings

It is important that you prepare for your divorce hearing so you can tell the Court about your application and answer the Court’s questions.

You should read the documents that have been filed with the Court and plan what you want to say.

For more information, see Preparing for the hearing.

Whether you must attend the divorce hearing depends on if you: 

  • make a sole or joint application
  • have a child under 18 years old with your spouse
  • file a Response to the Divorce 
  • ask for substituted service or to dispense with service. 

All divorce hearings are by telephone unless you have asked to attend in person, or the Court orders you to attend in person.

For more information, see Going to the hearing.

A Divorce Order will be made if the Court is satisfied that:

  • you and your spouse are legally married 
  • your marriage has irretrievably broken down
  • you and your spouse were separated for at least 12 months when the Application for Divorce was filed
  • the Application for Divorce was correctly served on your spouse
  • you and your spouse have made appropriate arrangements for the care of your children, if relevant.  

If the Court is not satisfied that all of the above criteria have been met, it will not grant you a divorce.  

For more information, including how to get a copy of a Divorce Order, see Divorce order.

A divorce order may be rescinded (cancelled) or appealed in some circumstances.

There are a number of other things you may need to consider when getting a divorce, besides making an application to the Court.

For more information, see After court.