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DIY Divorce: Navigating the Process on Your Own Terms

Did you know that nearly one-third of marriages in Australia end in divorce? As this statistic demonstrates, divorce is an unfortunate reality for many couples. With the emotional and financial strain that often accompanies the dissolution of a marriage, it’s no wonder that some people are turning to do-it-yourself (DIY) divorces as a cost-effective and less stressful alternative. 

partial view of couple at table with divorce documents

In this article, we will explore the feasibility of a DIY divorce in Australia, provide an overview of the process, and offer valuable resources to help you decide if going the DIY route is the right choice for you and your spouse.

Understanding DIY Divorce

A DIY divorce, or do-it-yourself divorce, is a process by which a couple navigates the legal dissolution of their marriage without hiring a lawyer or using a traditional divorce service. This approach can save both time and money, and it allows the couple to maintain greater control over the process. While DIY divorces are not suitable for everyone, they can be a practical option for those with relatively simple and uncontested cases.

Reasons people choose a DIY divorce:

  1. Cost-effectiveness: A DIY divorce can save couples thousands of dollars compared to hiring lawyers or using divorce services. The primary expenses associated with a DIY divorce include court filing fees and any fees for obtaining required documents.
  2. Reduced stress and increased control: A DIY divorce allows couples to work at their own pace and make decisions based on their unique situation, without the pressure of a lawyer or mediator. This can help to create a more amicable and cooperative atmosphere during the divorce process.
  3. Simplicity in straightforward cases: For couples with no children, little shared property, and mutual agreement on the terms of the divorce, a DIY divorce can be a relatively quick and painless process. The lack of complexity in such cases makes it easier to navigate the legal system without professional assistance.
Unhappy married couple on verge of divorce due to impotence

The DIY Divorce Process (Overview)

The DIY divorce process can be broken down into several stages, each with its own set of tasks and considerations. By understanding the steps involved, individuals pursuing a DIY divorce can better prepare themselves for the journey ahead.

  1. Eligibility and Preconditions: Before initiating a DIY divorce, it is crucial to ensure that you meet certain eligibility criteria. Jurisdiction and residency requirements dictate that either spouse must be an Australian citizen or resident and have lived in the country for at least 12 months before filing. Additionally, the couple must have been separated for a minimum of 12 months to demonstrate the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
  2. The Application Process: To start the DIY divorce, you need to fill out an Application for Divorce form. You can do this online through the Commonwealth Courts website. You can file the application together or alone, depending on how well you both cooperate. Once finished, submit the application to the right court and pay the filing fee. If you didn’t file together, you must give the divorce papers to the other person according to the court’s rules.
  3. Resolving Disputes and Negotiations: An important part of the DIY divorce process is working out disagreements and making decisions about dividing property and making plans for the kids. It’s important to talk openly and try to agree on these matters. Ideally, you would have resolved these issues prior to starting the DIY divorce process. It is recommended that you seek help from a lawyer if you have not finalised your property or parenting arrangements.
  4. Finalising the Divorce: After filing the application, the court will look at the papers and set a hearing date. If the divorce is not disputed and all requirements are met, you might not need to go to the hearing. If there are children under the age of 18, you will need to appear at the hearing. If the court approves your divorce, a divorce order will be given. The order becomes effective after waiting for one month and one day after the Registrar makes the Order. Once the divorce is complete, you should take care of any remaining tasks, like updating your will or changing who gets your superannuation.

The Challenges of DIY Divorce

Embarking on a DIY divorce journey presents numerous challenges that individuals must be prepared to face, as self-representation in family law matters can be complex and time-consuming. There are also associated risks, such as the potential for costly mistakes if the process is not properly followed.

DIY Divorce can be a risky path to take, as there are many potential problems that could arise along the way.

Here are some of the most common challenges individuals may face:

  • Family law is complex: Divorce involves many legal aspects that can be confusing and difficult to navigate, especially without prior knowledge. It is crucial to have a good understanding of family law principles, rights, and obligations before attempting a DIY divorce.
  • You may not get the best outcome: While a DIY divorce can be cheaper and more empowering, there is a risk of achieving suboptimal outcomes without professional legal assistance. This could lead to unfair property settlements, parenting arrangements, and long-term consequences that can affect both parties and their families. It’s essential to carefully consider the benefits and challenges before attempting a DIY divorce and to seek professional help when necessary.
  • Waste of time and money: A DIY divorce could end up being more costly and time-consuming than hiring a professional. If the court rejects your application due to an incomplete or inaccurate application or a lack of evidence, you may have to spend more time and money resolving the issue with the help of a professional lawyer.
Couple is divorced who handed their engagement ring to the divorce documents

Conclusion

When a married couple decides to end their marriage, it can be a very difficult and complicated process. Some people may be tempted to handle everything themselves in order to save money and feel more in control. However, this can be a risky path to take, as there are many potential problems that could arise along the way.

If you find yourself in need of a guiding hand or a trusted ally, look no further than the Arbon Legal Group. Our seasoned professionals possess the expertise, empathy, and dedication necessary to light your path, whether you require assistance with complex negotiations or simply seek the reassurance of expert counsel. 

Nicole Jevtovic
Nicole Jevtovic has worked in Family, Domestic Violence and Criminal Law her entire legal career. During her years as a divorce lawyer and criminal lawyer, Nicole has appeared in court on almost a daily basis. She has extensive experience in court advocacy and has even run trials herself as a solicitor advocate. While she enjoys court representation, Nicole aims to resolve her client’s matters in the most cost effective and stress-free way possible which is why she is an advocate for mediation and negotiation outside of court.
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