A Joint Application for Divorce is where both parties to a marriage come together and apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia that their marriage be ended. As with any Divorce Application, two criteria must be met. First, the parties have to be legally married, either in Australia or overseas. Secondly, the marriage must have irretrievably broken down, and the parties have lived separately and apart, for at least 12 months immediately before the Divorce Application is issued.
The first criteria, that the couple are legally married, is usually easily met. A copy (not the original), of the Marriage Certificate is filed with the Court at the same time as the Divorce Application. For Australian marriages, a photocopy of the Marriage Certificate is sufficient. If it has been lost, a certified copy can be obtained from the Victorian Office of Births Deaths and Marriages. If the marriage was overseas and the Marriage Certificate is in a foreign language, it will be necessary to have it translated into English by a translation service. They will certify that it’s a true, translated, copy of the original. Both the foreign Marriage Certificate and the translation are filed at the Court with the Divorce Application.
The second criteria, that the parties have lived “separately and apart” for at least 12 months immediately before the Divorce Application is filed, is usually satisfied by simply stating the separation date in the Divorce Application. The Court accepts that, provided the other side doesn’t object. Clearly, there is no problem about that if it’s a Joint Application. It gets a little more complicated if the parties spent all, or part, of the 12-month separation period under the same roof. In that case, one of the parties needs to get a witness, who has been to the parties’ home on several occasions during the time they were living under the same roof, to sign an affidavit to say the parties were truly separated – that they were sleeping in separate bedrooms, not going out together socially or socialising with family and friends in the home.
But back to Joint Applications for Divorce. One of the advantages of doing this, apart from helping to keep relations between the couple amicable (so important when there are children), there is no need to serve the Application on either party. Also, neither party has to attend the hearing (although they are now held on the phone, not in person in Court). Some people think this is regrettable, as there is no “Divorce Event” to either celebrate or feel sad about. But that’s the way it is.
The fee to file the Divorce Application in Court is now nearly $1000, but it’s about one third of that if you have a Centrelink card. However, in a Joint Application, if one party has a Centrelink card and the other doesn’t, the full filing fee has to be paid.
One other thing to remember. Lawyers are not allowed to represent both parties in a Family Law case. That means, where one party’s lawyer prepares a Joint Application for Divorce, that lawyer can’t act for either party in any subsequent parenting of property matter, whether or not the case goes to Court.
We hope this has helped you in understanding how a Joint Application for Divorce works. If you have any questions, one of our friendly Family Law Team will be happy to help.