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Manage Your Own Divorce - Applying for a divorce


Before you start

Have you been separated for 12 months or more?

To get a divorce, the court must be satisfied that the marriage is over (“the marriage has broken down irretrievably”). You can prove that your marriage
is over by showing that you and your spouse have been separated for at least 12 months and there is no likelihood of getting back together.

Sometimes, you can divorce when you are still living in the same home, as long as you can show the court that you have separated. See: Separation under the same roof (factsheet 4).


Have you been married less than two years?

If you have been married less than two years, you are required to try marriage counselling before you apply for a divorce. The court may allow you to file your divorce application without attending counselling in some situations,
for example if you have experienced domestic violence or cannot find your spouse. You will need to file an affidavit explaining your situation.


Do you know where your spouse is?

Your spouse needs to be served with your divorce application. If you do not know where your spouse is, see: Serving your divorce documents (factsheet 2).


This factsheet is one of four factsheets about managing your own divorce. It is intended as a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice and it is recommended that you talk to a lawyer about your particular situation. At the time of printing, the information shown is correct, but may be subject to change. If you need help, call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.

What you need

An Application for Divorce form

  • Forms are available from the court registry by calling 1300 352 000 or online at www.familylawcourts.gov.au
  • The Federal Circuit Court deals with divorce applications.

A copy of your marriage certificate

If you do not have a marriage certificate, contact the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on 13 77 88, or online at www.bdm.nsw.gov.au

Marriage certificates from overseas are accepted, but they must be in English or translated into English by an authorised translating service with an affidavit from the translator.


A copy of your citizenship certificate or passport

If you were not born in Australia you need:

  • a copy of your certificate of Australian citizenship; or
  • proof that you are legally in Australia and have lived in Australia for at least the last 12 months.

Money to pay a filing fee

You must pay a filing fee (currently $845). Filing fees change from time to time. You can check the current fee with the court registry by calling 1300 352 000 or online at www.familylawcourts.gov.au

In some circumstances (such as financial hardship) you may be entitled to a reduced fee (currently $280). You can apply using the Application for reduction of payment of divorce or decree of nullity form.

Complete the Application for Divorce

Divorce applications may be made by one spouse (sole application) or both spouses (joint application).

The process will be slightly different for each.


The application must be completed accurately.

If you need help with your application, Legal Aid NSW runs divorce classes. Once completed, your application needs to be signed in front of a Justice of the Peace (JP) or lawyer. If it is a joint application, both you and your spouse must sign it, but you do not have to do this at the same time, or with the same JP or lawyer.


You should consider:

  • If you and your spouse were ever separated but living under one roof the court may require further information. See: Separation under the same roof (factsheet 4).
  • The court will want to know that there are suitable arrangements in place for any children under 18. You will need to attend the hearing if it is a sole application.
  • Sometimes you need to file an affidavit to provide more information to the court. (e.g. If you cannot possibly get a copy of your marriage certifi-cate). An affidavit is a written statement of your evidence. It is the only way evidence is accepted.

File the Application for Divorce

Filing means lodging your documents with the court. You need to file the application to start the divorce process.

  • Make two copies of the signed Application for Divorce and any other court documents you have prepared.
  • You can file online, by post, or in person. To file you will need to pay the filing fee (reduced or full). See the checklist at the end of this factsheet for documents you will need to file.
  • The court will keep the original documents. You will get two copies back. The court will stamp and write your hearing date on these copies. One copy is for you to keep. The other copy is for your spouse.

Serve your spouse

If it is a sole application, you must serve your spouse with a copy of your
Application for Divorce.

“Serving” means posting or having someone deliver the documents to your spouse in accordance with the court rules.
See: Serving your divorce documents (factsheet 2).

You do not need to serve your spouse if it is a joint application.


On the hearing date

  • If your application is a sole application and there are children under 18 (including any adopted children, foster children, or children of either you or your spouse from a prior relationship) you MUST attend the hearing. Otherwise, it is your choice whether to attend. If you do not attend, and the court requires more information, they will write to you and give you another date to go to court. This will delay your divorce.
  • If there are any issues with your application, you may be able to get help from a duty lawyer at court.
  • If the court grants your divorce, it will take effect (become final) one month and one day after the order is made. You will then receive your divorce order in the post.
  • The divorce hearing is only about ending your marriage. You will need to make a separate application if you want orders about children or property.

You do not have to wait until you are divorced to ask the court for orders about your children, your property or spouse maintenance. However, once you are divorced, you have 12 months from the date your divorce order becomes final to file an application for property settlement or spouse maintenance. Any will previously made by you or your spouse is likely to be affected by the divorce order. You should get legal advice.

Also see: Divorce hearing (factsheet 3).

Tips for affidavits

You can obtain a blank Affidavit form from the Family Law Courts registry by calling 1300 352 000 or online at www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

  • Attach extra pages if you need more space.
  • Number every paragraph.
  • When you are writing about what someone said, put it in quotation marks. If you cannot recall the exact words said, use the phrase “words to the
  • effect of”. For example: He said to me words to the effect of “that’s fine.”
  • You can attach documents, such as:
  • a bank statement that shows you set up your own bank account after separation
  • a letter you wrote to your spouse about separation.
  • To attach a document, you should write in the affidavit: “annexed to this affidavit and marked “A” is a copy of the letter ”. You should then write “A” at the top of the front page of the document you are attaching.
  • If you have more than one document, mark each one A, B, C, D etc. in the order that you refer to them in your affidavit and attach them in that
  • order to the back of your affidavit.
  • Sign the affidavit in front of a lawyer or a Justice of the Peace (JP). There may be a JP at the court.
  • Sign (and have your witness also sign) the bottom of each page.

Check List for Divorce

  1. Complete the Application for Divorce
  2. Sign the Application for Divorce in front of a JP or lawyer
  3. Make two copies of the Application for Divorce and any supporting court documents
  4. File:
  • original and 2 copies of your application     
  • original and two copies of any other court documents (e.g. an affidavit)  
  • copy of your marriage certificate       
  • citizenship certificate or passport (if required)      
  • application for a reduction of the filing fee, with a copy of your pension card or financial details (if required)
  1. Pay the filing fee (full rate or reduced)
  2. If required, arrange to serve your spouse and file proof of service with the court. See: Serving your divorce documents (factsheet 2)
  3. If required, attend the hearing. See: Divorce hearing (factsheet 3)
  4. Obtain your divorce order from the court

Remember property settlement and/or spouse maintenance applications must be filed within 12 months of divorce

Where are the Federal Circuit Courts?


463 Kiewa Street, Albury NSW 2640

Level 1, 26 Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Corner Macquarie & Wingewarra Streets, Dubbo NSW 2830

2/29–31 Molesworth Street, Lismore NSW 2480

61 Bolton Street, Newcastle NSW 2300

1–3 George Street, Parramatta NSW 2124

97–99 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2001

1/43 Burelli Street, Wollongong NSW 2500

For more information online about applying for divorce see www.familycourts.gov.au 

Help to manage your own divorce

Legal Aid NSW runs free classes to help you fill out the Application for Divorce. Ask us to arrange an interpreter when you book. Visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/divorce-classes.

If there are no classes, you can make an appointment to see  a lawyer for free advice. Legal Aid NSW offices can be found on our website under Contact Us, or call the Family Law Early Intervention Unit on 1800 551 589.

LawAccess NSW provides legal information, referral and, in some cases, advice. Call 1300 888 529.

If you need an interpreter call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) 131 450.

If you are hearing impaired call the National Relay Service (NRS) 133 677.

This factsheet is one of four factsheets about managing your own divorce. It is intended as a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice and it is recommended that you talk to a lawyer about your particular situation. At the time of publishing, the information shown is correct, but may be subject to change. If you need help, call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.

You can order printed copies of this factsheet from www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications

September 2014