Anyone who saw the hit Netflix movie The Divorce a couple of years ago – or any other dramatised depiction of ‘conscious uncoupling’ for that matter – could be forgiven for assuming the process will be a complex, expensive, and lengthy one.
In actual fact, most divorces are, thankfully, quite the opposite! Done right and with sound advice, a divorce can be relatively straightforward, inexpensive and quickly sorted.
On paper, the process of filing for divorce is not dissimilar to the approach taken during any other legal application. It’s basically a case of filling out the appropriate paperwork – an Application for Divorce form, in this case – followed by lodging the application via the Commonwealth Court Portal, and then paying a filing fee.
In reality, however, there can be a lot more to the process. Here, Rayner Song Family Lawyers have outlined the various costs that factor into how much divorce costs today in Australia …
What are the potential costs associated with getting a divorce in Australia?
The potential real expenses associated with any divorce in Australia are probably best outlined by breaking down the individual elements of the process and their associated costs …
Application for Divorce
A fee of $930 is payable to the Court on lodging the Application for Divorce.
In some instances when lodging an Application for Divorce, you might be eligible for a reduced fee of $310. This should apply if you’re:
- aged 18 years or below
- considered to be living in financial hardship
- the holder of a Department of Human Services Health Care Card or
- Pensioner Concession Card, or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Pensioner Concession Card
- receiving youth allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY payments
- receiving Legal Aid
- a prison inmate, or detained in a public institution.
If you’re applying for a reduced Application for Divorce fee, you’ll be expected to offer written evidence of your eligibility. Keep in mind, if you’re filing a joint application both parties must be deemed eligible for the reduced fee to be valid.
Any sole applicant will need to have their partner officially ‘served’ with an Application for Divorce.
It’s worth noting that you’re not legally allowed to serve the other party yourself. Instead, you will need to engage a third party to do this on your behalf. You can pretty much ask anyone over the age of 18 to do this.
You may also wish to consider engaging a professional Process Serving Agent to officially serve your partner with the application on your behalf. There are many reasons why you might prefer to go down this route, one major advantage being their in-depth knowledge of the legalities, and their specific experience in dealing with difficult recipients. In turn, this can alleviate the stress that may be involved with serving the documents yourself.
Engaging an independent third party in this way can have a positive impact on the future of your legal case. Their experience and strong evidence of delivery – including statements, certificates, affidavits or even video evidence – will carry more weight in court than that of an involved party.
Of course, additional fees will apply if you choose to go with a professional ‘server’. Ordinarily, process servers charge $100 to $200 to serve an Application for Divorce, but the fee could be higher if the person being served lives far from the city centre or if that person is evading service.
Response to the party initiating
Those responding to an Application for Divorce usually won’t be required to pay any fees if they agree to the application after being served. However, if they choose to oppose it, a $360 fee will be charged to change the application.
If an Application for Divorce is contested, the matter will be listed for a hearing. Additional fees will be incurred if you engage a lawyer to assist with the hearing.
Costs associated with matters related to divorce
Divorces that have additional complexities can result in the need to engage the services of a specialist family lawyer. While legal fees can vary, the more legal input that’s required (and as a consequence the more time that’s involved), the higher you can expect your legal expenses to be.
The most common legal cost structure that would be applicable during divorce proceedings would be a fee-for-service model. This means you pay your lawyer only for the time it takes to deliver the services you receive. This will typically be calculated and charged at an hourly rate.
Your family lawyer should be able to offer an estimate at the beginning of the proceedings about the likely length of the process in your specific case. Interim billing will occur at regular, agreed intervals. This is important to give you some peace-of-mind around how much you can expect to spend, and when.
In some instances, Rayner Song Family Lawyers can offer a fixed-fee model. This is usually done when we have a clear idea of the scope of work involved. For example, if an agreement has been reached and we are asked to assist with the drafting of settlement documents.
We understand clients can be anxious about legal fees and so we aim to give you a clear idea about the costs involved.
It is worth keeping in mind the estimated legal costs calculated at the start of the process can sometimes change as things progress. For example, when new issues (such as taxation) get introduced or if there is uncertainty around how either party might respond during different elements of the process.
One obvious element of divorce is the dividing up of mutually owned assets, financial resources and liabilities. A formal Property Settlement will give you peace of mind that your financial and debt ties with your ex-spouse has been properly terminated. A Property Settlement will document what will happen to property, businesses, money, shares, vehicles, valuable personal effects, debts and even animals.
Where two people are divorcing under acrimonious circumstances or are unable to agree on certain terms of the divorce, the services of a professional mediator may become necessary.
A mediator assumes the role of impartial third party with the goal of helping to reach a fair resolution that both parties can agree upon. Mediation is considered a specialised legal service, and is often charged as part of the overall legal fees.
Divorce means separating your income too, which often means one partner finds themselves unable to meet their usual living expenses on a single income. In these circumstances, this partner may be entitled to receive spousal maintenance payments from the other party.
In cases where the divorcing couple share children under the age of 18, child support may be payable by one party towards the other. Often, parents agree between themselves how expenses related to their children ought to be divided.
If agreement cannot be reached, one or both parents may ask the Department of Human Services Child Support – colloquially known as the Child Support Agency or CSA – for an administrative assessment of their child support to be conducted. This assessment will consider the income of each parent, as well as their percentages of care, before settling on the amount of child support that is expected to be paid until a future time, decided by the Court.
In exceptional circumstances, the Family Court may step in and make an order (upon application by one party) about how parenting expenses are to be divided.
The majority of divorcing parents in Australia are able to successfully discuss and agree on the arrangements for the care of their children.
However, in the event the couple fails to agree on an arrangement for their children post-separation, specialist family lawyers can assist with negotiating a custody arrangement that will suit their children’s needs.
Our family lawyers can assist you with preparing for mediation, so you obtain the optimal outcome. In some cases parents may still disagree following mediation, meaning a family law court will be the one to make a decision, based on what they deem to be in the best interests of the children involved.
All fees associated with asset separation, mediation, spousal maintenance, child support and parenting should be included as part of your total divorce costs.
How can we help?
For further information about the costs of getting divorced in Australia, it’s best to consult with the experts.
Rayner Song Family Lawyers is known for expertly handling every conceivable type of divorce, from the straightforward to the complex. Our team comprises some of the best family lawyers Glen Waverley has to offer.
If you’re planning to apply for a divorce or are seeking advice on any other legal family matter, get in touch with us on (03) 9803 5673 to organise an initial consultation.