Divorce – choppy waters or smooth sailing?

Relationship breakdowns can be very stressful.

Whether you are experiencing a divorce, separation, negotiating care for children, formalising financial arrangements, or dividing property, it can be complex and overwhelming.

We’ve broken down the most frequently asked questions and important points to understand.

It’s not my fault and this isn’t fair.

Victoria Legal Aid notes:
In Australia, the law does not look at whose fault it is that the relationship ended. The law’s main concerns are making sure all family members are safe, doing what is best for the children, and dividing property fairly. It is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It is about making arrangements for the future.

It starts with separation.

Separation is when one or both parties in a relationship decide to end it.

There is no legal process that you need to follow when you decide to separate, but you may need to give some thought as to what to do next, including:

  • Advising government organisations such as Centrelink and Medicare
  • Whether or not you will continue to live together, or if one party will leave the home
  • What arrangements will be made for children
  • Changing your will.

You may decide to work on the relationship and attempt to work things out, and there are many organisations which can assist including Family Relationships Online.

I’m getting divorced. What do I need to know?

Divorce is when a court makes an order to end your marriage. You can apply for a divorce at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

There are legal requirements in place for couples who decide to officially divorce and these include:

  • You must be separated for at least 12 months and one day before you divorce
  • You may continue to live together, however you must be able to prove that you live separate lives.

You don’t need a lawyer to apply for a divorce, but you may engage one to help you resolve complex things like arrangements for children or property.

Unhappy marriage, happy divorce? ‘No fault’ divorce means Australian courts will not consider why a marriage has ended: and statistically many once happy unions do. Experts from the Law Institute of Victoria have produced a podcast to explain why divorce battles turn ugly and how you can navigate the Family Court to avoid post marriage messiness. Listen now.

I feel unsafe. What is family violence and what do I need to know?

Victoria Legal Aid defines family violence:
Family violence is when someone hurts another person in their family or makes them feel scared. ‘Family’ includes people who are married, de facto couples or other intimate relationships, children, carers or someone considered part of the family.

Family violence can include:

  • threats and intimidation, and repeated harmful comments. For example, ‘I will hurt you if you leave this home’, ‘you will be sent back to your country’ or ‘you are useless and stupid’
  • physical violence. For example, hitting, pushing or throwing things
  • stalking. For example, following you when you go out or monitoring your movements, phone calls and emails
  • sexual violence. For example, forcing you to have sex
  • emotional threats. For example, ‘no one will love you’ or ‘I will keep the children’
  • economic abuse. For example, controlling your spending or access to money, especially if you depend on the other person for money for you and your children.

Family violence can also include controlling behaviour such as stopping you from seeing your family and friends and from keeping connections with your culture. It also covers other behaviour, such as deliberately damaging your property or harming your pets.

It is also family violence when children hear, see or know about the violence. For example, if children witness violence, comfort a family member or see police arrive because of family violence.

Can they send you back to your country of origin? Partner visa applicants who are victims of family violence often face threats from their abusive partner that they will be sent back to their country of origin if they end the relationship.

This Law Week a free online session presented by Australian Visa & Education Specialists will explain the laws relating to partner visa applications and family violence, and the special rules that apply. See more details.

How can you get help? Deakin Law Clinic in collaboration with Cloverdale Community Learning Centre are running a free information session in Corio, Family violence – how can you get help? (Corio). See more details.

If you are involved in family violence, make sure you and your children are safe. You can:

  • call the police on 000
  • call a family violence service
  • get legal advice
  • apply for a family violence intervention order
  • get support from family and friends.

If you identify as female, you can call Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (24 hours) on 1800 015 188.

Want to learn more?

Check out these events during Victorian Law Week.

Where can I get more help?

There are many organisations who may be able to assist when problems do arise including:


Check out other events during
Victorian Law Week


The information in this article was sourced from Victoria Legal Aid, and the other legal, government, and community organisations mentioned. The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and therefore, should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any matters you have. No claim or representation is made, or warranty given, express or implied, in relation to the content of this article.

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