Whether you've been weighing up the idea, have come to a conclusion or perhaps been dealt a divorce preposition by your partner, you probably have a million and one questions.
To help you tackle some of those queries head first, we have found the answers to 10 of the most common questions Australian women have about divorce. From the legal process to the mental impact divorce may have on you and your family, here's what to know.
1. Can divorce be filed online?
If you have come to a resolute decision – either deciding by yourself or together with your partner – that you would like to file for divorce, you can submit an application online.
To do this, you must complete the online interactive Application for Divorce on the Federal Circuit Court of Australia website.
Remember: In order to file for divorce you must prove to the court that you and your spouse have lived separately or been apart for at least 12 months.
2. How much does a divorce cost?
The current filing fee for a divorce in Australia is $900. If you hold a concession card, or you can't afford to pay the fee due to financial difficulties, you can apply for the fee to be reduced to $300.
If you do require legal assistance or financial mediation during your divorce, this can ultimately affect the overall cost of the process.
If you're feeling anxious about your inability to cover required legal costs, don't be scared to reach out to your bank to discuss loan or credit options.
3. Who gets what in a separation?
Every separation is different so it's impossible to set a 'rule of thumb' when it comes to splitting assets. However, there are four main factors taken into consideration when calculating a financial settlement. These are:
- The asset pool: This includes working through what you own and owe together such as savings, investments, real estate, superannuation, as well as any debts you might have.
- An assessment of contributions: This refers to each partner's financial contributions to their marriage. It also includes non-financial, parenting and home maker contributions.
- Considerations of future needs: This includes the age, health condition, income and childcare needs of each party.
- A fair and equitable settlement: Consideration is given as to whether the final settlement is suitable for both partners and their circumstances.
These four factors will then be used to create a balance sheet, a document that sets out all assets, liabilities and financial resources for each partner. For easy reference, Westpac has created a Separation Calculator that can be used to complete a detailed stocktake of joint and individual assets, from your house and superannuation to things with more sentimental value such as family heirlooms.
This settlement will then need to be reviewed and determined final by an accountant, and if both parties are in agreeance, the financial settlement will then be lodged to the family court to be finalised.
If you do find yourself in a dispute over your financial settlement, two options are available. You can either engage a lawyer or lodge the dispute with the family court and get them to decide. If you are in need of more information and access to relevant forms, visit the Family Court of Australia online.
4. How long does a divorce take?
According to a recent Westpac report, on average, it takes nearly three years (2.8) to finalise a separation or divorce from the start of the relationship breakdown.
However, once a divorce application has been filed it can take at least four months for the paperwork to be processed and the application to be granted by the court.
This process can take longer if there are difficulties involved in serving your partner or if the court is not satisfied with certain aspects of your application.
5. How will divorce affect my kids?
A separation or divorce can be a stressful time for your child/children and they may react in different ways during and after the process. This is all fairly dependant on the child's age, temperament and also the level of cooperation between you and your partner.
Therefore, it's vital you keep your child's mental wellbeing, as well as your own, a top priority. If you're in need of extra support, Relationships Australia is a great point of contact and provides counselling services for kids.
When considering parenting and custody arrangements for your children, try not to compare your situation to others but rather make decisions that are best for your own kids' needs. Also remember that both you and your ex-partner will continue to be responsible for the financial care of your children.
6. Will divorce affect my credit score?
Filing for divorce will not directly impact your credit scores. However, if you do share a credit card or have a joint loan with your partner, devise a game plan around how you can tackle these debts as any missed payments between the two of you can ultimately reflect badly on your credit score.
Speaking with your bank about alternate ways to reduce or pay off any joint debt can also help set you up for success. This can include any property or loans you may have together.
If you're feeling concerned about your changing financial situation, visit your local Westpac branch or call 132 558 to speak with a Westpac banker, who can help you create a feasible plan to stay on track, such as a mortgage payment relief plan.
7. What do I do if I’m getting a divorce and don’t work?
If you are unable to work due to injury or disability, it is important that you immediately contact Centrelink as you may qualify for some government assistance.
If you've been a homemaker for the length of your relationship and getting back into the workforce is an option for you, start to reach out to your personal networks — your friends and contacts may know of suitable roles or even be able to recommend you for a position. You could also consider doing some short courses to update or refresh your budgeting and finance skills. A great place to start is Westpac's Davidson Institute, which is a learning tool that takes you through financial webinars and provides downloadable tools and guides to help get you into the driver's seat.
8. Who keeps the house during a divorce?
If you do currently own property with your partner, remain in your shared house until you have sought legal advice. By moving out, you may actually be giving up any entitlement that you have to that property.
If you are exploring property in your financial settlement, you may consider selling the property and dividing your profits, or if you're in a stable financial position you may want to consider releasing your ex from the mortgage.
Be sure to consult a home finance manager and your family lawyer before making any major decisions about your property. If you need a bit of breathing space to decide what to do with your jointly-owned property after separation, Westpac allows customers to pause or reduce home loan repayments in the short-term.
9. How do I change my surname after a divorce?
If you would prefer to revert back to your maiden name, you will have to request a name change at the Births, Deaths and Marriages relevant to the state you live in. You will need to provide your marriage certificate, birth certificate and divorce certificate.
Don't forget to notify your bank – and any other places you have accounts with ie. your phone bill, super fund and insurance companies – of your name change.
10. How do I prove I'm divorced?
Once your divorce is approved and finalised, you can request a Proof of Divorce certificate from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
This information is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for personal financial use.