What is divorce?
Divorce is the official legal ending of a marriage.
Obtaining a divorce order from the Family Court means that your marriage has formally ended and you can remarry.
You do not have to prove "fault" in a divorce application. The only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, and this is proved by showing:
- that you have been separated for a period of at least 12 months immediately before you ask for the divorce, and
- there is no chance of reconciliation (or getting back together as husband and wife).
Will a divorce deal with my property and children's issues?
A divorce does not sort out issues relating to property or children, and you will need to make arrangements separately (see Frequently Asked Questions: arrangements for children and Dividing property - married couples).
If you have children under the age of 18, the court will not grant you a divorce unless it is satisfied that there are proper arrangements in place for the children including arrangements for their financial support, education, housing and so on. Agreeing to a divorce does not mean that you necessarily agree with the current arrangements for your children as a continuing arrangement (who they live with and who they spend time with).
Important: If you wish to deal with any property or spousal maintenance issues with your former spouse through the Family Court you must start proceedings in the court within 12 months from the date your divorce was made final. If you do not, you will need to seek leave or special permission from the court to be able to start your case. Leave is only granted in special circumstances. For information on how to commence Family Court proceedings for property settlement, see How does the Family Court deal with a property case. If you think you may be out of time, you should seek legal advice.
Important: If you have a will, this is likely to be cancelled by your divorce. For more information, see Wills.
How do I get a divorce?
You will need to apply to the Family Court of WA. You can do this by going to the Family Court of WA website, clicking on the 'Apply for Divorce' button and following the prompts. If you reside in Perth and do not have access to the internet, there are computers available at the Family Court of WA Registry in Perth you can use to complete and lodge the application. If you otherwise do not have access to the internet you can contact the Family Court Registry to request a Divorce Application form.
If you are filing the application on your own (single application) then you must provide copies of the documents you filed to your former spouse (called "service"). For more information about service of a divorce application, see the Family Court of WA brochure Serving an Application for Divorce. If you and your spouse both sign the application (known as making a joint application) then you will not have to serve it on each other.
When can I file for a divorce?
You can only sign and file your application if you have been separated for an entire 12 months, counting the day you separated. An easy way to work this out is to remember the date you separated then pick the day after this date the next year. You can sign and then file your application anytime after this date.
What does "separated" mean?
You are "separated" from your husband/wife when you are no longer living together as husband and wife and one of you lets the other know that he or she believes that the marriage has broken down. Your husband/wife does not have to agree to the separation. It is possible to be separated but still living in the same house. For more information, see Separation.
Does it cost any money to get a divorce?
There is a filing fee payable to the Family Court when you file your application. You may be eligible for a reduction in the fee if you are on certain Centrelink or other government benefits or if you are suffering from financial hardship. See the Court fees section of the Family Court of WA website for more information and a copy of the application form for reduction of fees, or seek legal advice to find out whether you might be eligible for the reduced fee.
How long will it take?
When you file your application you will be given a hearing date. This is the date your application for divorce will be dealt with, or considered by the Family Court. This date is usually a few months (one to three months) away from the date you filed so make sure you have left plenty of time especially if you are planning to remarry.
Do I have to go to court when my application is heard?
If you do not have children under 18, and
- you marked the box on the application form that says you do not want to go to court, and
- your husband/wife does not object to your application
then you will not need to go to court.
If you have children under 18, the court will require attendance by the person applying for the divorce (the applicant) at court, or if it is a joint application then the court will ask you both to attend if it is not satisfied that appropriate arrangements have been made for your children.
If at any time during the 12 month period of separation you were still living under the same roof as your former spouse, you should attend the divorce hearing. You may also need to bring an independent witness who can verify that you and your spouse were separated. For more information, see Separation.
If in doubt whether you should attend the hearing you should ask the court when you file the application.
If we were only married for a short time, under two years - is there anything else I need to do?
You cannot file an application for divorce less than two years from the date of your marriage, unless you also file a counselling certificate or you ask the court for leave (special permission) to do so. Further information and a copy of the counselling certificate can be found on the Family Court of WA website.
How can I get help completing my documents?
Legal aid is not usually granted for divorce applications.
The Family Court of WA website has instructions about what steps you need to follow to obtain a divorce.
You can also call the Legal Aid WA Infoline on 1300 650 579 for information and appropriate referrals - some Community Legal Centres may be able to assist you with completing and filing your documents.
If I would like to try to work things out with my husband/wife, what can I do?
A range of services are available to try to work out whether you and your former spouse might be able to reconcile. Family counselling services and family dispute resolution providers might be able to help you. For more information about what services are available:
Where can I get more information?
- Go to the When Separating website. Here you will find short films about family law and other helpful information and links for families experiencing separation.
- Call the Legal Aid WA Infoline on 1300 650 579.
- Go the Family Court of WA website or call the registry on (08) 9224 8222 or 1800 199 228 (Country Areas Free Call).
Last reviewed: 18/10/2016