Applying for a divorce in Australia

How do I apply for a divorce?

You need to meet certain criteria under the Family Law Act 1975


The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has the jurisdiction or power to deal with the dissolution of marriage.

You need to satisfy the Court

  • That you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months, and that you are unlikely to resume married life. 
  • It is possible to live together in the same residence and still be separated.
  • If you apply for a divorce together (with your spouse), it is a joint application and you and your spouse are joint applicants.
  • If you apply for a divorce by yourself, you are a sole applicant and your spouse is the respondent.
  • You may prepare your own divorce application or ask a lawyer to do it for you.

To be eligible to apply for a divorce in Australia, you or your spouse must answer 'yes' to at least one of the following questions

  • Regard Australia as your home and intend to live indefinately in Australia
  • Are an Australian citizen by birth or descent
  • Are an Australian citizen by grant of an Australian Citizenship
  • Live in Australia and have done so for 12 months immediately before filing for divorce (not including overseas holidays or business trips) 

Have you been separated for at least 12 months?

While you are not required to provide evidence at the time of application, you may be required to provide affidavit evidence at a later stage if the other party disputes the separation date.

Do you have your marriage certificate?

The marriage certificate you provide need not be an original or certified. You can provide the certificate provided by the Regisry of Births, Deaths and Marriages or your ceremonial certificate.

If you were married overseas and your marriage certificate is not in English, you will need to have the certificate translated and attach both documents to an Affidavit.


The filing fee is payaable at the time of filing the application.

Cour fees are often increased yearly but in 2016, filing the application in court is $845 (or $280 if you are eligible for a reduced fee.. see Guidelines for fee reducation via the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

How do you apply for a divorce when you cannot find the respondent to serve the application for divorce?

If you are unable to effect service on your spouse, after you have taken all reasonable steps to locate him/her, you can apply to the court for an oder for:

  • Substituted service which allows you to serve court documents on a third person who the court is satisfied will bring the court documents to the attention of your spouse  OR
  • Dispensation of service which allows the court to dispense with the requirement of service. Dispensation of service will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

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This article is an excerpt from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.