How to do your own divorce - this is a guide only and is NOT legal advice.

A woman shares her own experience so you won't be intimidated by the process

Hi there.  I'm a woman who has gone through 2 DIY Divorces.  Why do it yourself?  They're legal and cheaper than going through a solicitor.  I was very short of money and could not really afford to pay someone to do it for me.  I've laid out the process so that you can consider if you want to do it yourself or spend money on a legal representative.  Legal Aid is sure to be able to help if you cannot do it yourself.  At least approach them for guidance if you are very short of money.

The very first thing that must happen is that you have reached the decision to divorce.  The court will expect that you and your spouse will have gone to counselling to sort out differences first and try to save the marriage.  You have gone to a counselling session and it hasn't worked out.  Only one of you may have attended the session but if it was specifically to address the marriage issues then that is counted as an attempt to gain insight.  You will have to sign an affadavit to say that you sought counselling for the marriage. 

If you decide to sleep in separate bedrooms as a result of irreconcilable differences, then make a note of the date or as close as possible.  Tell your closest friend or someone you trust as this may later serve to bring your divorce date closer. 

In any event, you will need to be physically separated from your spouse for 12 months.  This can be under the same roof, but you will need a friend/etc to sign an affadavit to say that they were aware that you and your spouse were sleeping separately. 

Once the 12 months is up, or a little beforehand, you are now able to get the paperwork going.  So where do you get divorce papers?  If you google "DIY Divorce" for Australian circumstances, then you may find a selection of places to contact.

I contacted Aussie and they sent me a "Divorce Kit" for which I paid around $57 in 2011.  The prices may vary - I cannot tell you how much these kits will cost but that should be the ballpark figure as at 2011.  This is the price of the Kit, not the actual divorce fee, which, in 2012 is $550.  Again, there are forms to sign if you don't have that kind of money.  Don't fret. 

The kit is really a book that clearly outlines what you have to do, all your forms, and different case scenarios - there will be one that describes your situation.  For example, my husband and I didn't have children and we had already sold our house and split the proceeds.  We remained civil with eachother and were separated geographically.  This may or may not be your scenario. 

The kit will offer a range of different case studies that describe children present, separation time, opposition by the other spouse to divorce, evidence of separation, overseas marriages, missing spouses and many more.  Your situation will be amongst them and key steps to follow will be laid out. 

You must get yourself a copy of your Marriage Certificate.  It must either be in English or translated into English for the courts.  There is a checklist provided in the Kit that you must closely follow as it contains many things for you to consider - I only mention what I have personally experienced but the Kit describes many variations. 

The court will need a copy of your marriage certificate, your counselling affadavit, and any other forms that relate to any children of the marriage etc.  Remember, my own situation was childless - read the checklist carefully.  It is all spelled out and easy to follow. 

Then you send the forms to the courts - the Application for Divorce, (signed in front of and by a JP - usually at the local court house or the police station), the completed Notice of Application for Divorce which the courts will sign and return to you for you to send on to your spouse (they must be notified that you are seeking a divorce), and either the divorce court fee ($550 in 2012) OR the Exemption form or Waiver of Court Fees form. 

You will send all of these off to the courts (addresses are provided in the Kit, or you can check with your local courthouse).  They will come back after a few days "sealed" which means that they have been stamped with the official court seal and a date has been set for the divorce.  Meanwhile, you must now send your spouse the Notice of Application for Divorce which they then sign and return to you.  It is only fair that they know that you are applying for a divorce - this is the court's way of providing evidence that the divorce is scheduled. 

There are other forms included but you will have clear instructions from the Kit checklist and the court itself.  They provide any extra forms which you have to send on.  All you need to provide when sending forms to your spouse is a stamped addressed envelope.  Your spouse returns the form to you - or if that is not appropriate, you would ask Legal Aid or a counsellor for advice on the return address  (if there is the possibility of violence involved). 

Generally in my experience, once the forms have been sent to the courts, it is scheduled for the next month to be heard.   This gives you time to get back the Notice of Application for Divorce from your spouse and send it down, with a copy, to the courts again.  They will seal it and return a sealed copy of it to you. 

My point in writing this is to save you time and money - a DIY divorce is cheaper and it's legal.  You may not have money enough to afford a legal rep.  Or you may simply want to do it yourself.  For whatever reason, there's no reason why this legal process should be scary.  It is clearly laid out in the guidelines and checklists in the Kit that you can apply for and purchase online.  And if you cannot truly afford the large court fee then there are forms to fill out that waive the fee. 

Good luck and be confident,

Nancy Liddle