As divorce mediation specialists in Perth, we are often asked ‘how long does it take to get a divorce?’.
While the answer isn’t always straightforward, there are a number of clear steps in the divorce process that can dictate how long your divorce might take from start to finish.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce?
First and foremost, it is vital to understand the difference between (a) a formal “divorce” and (b) finalising financial settlement and/or children’s orders at the end of a relationship.
“Divorce” is a formal term that refers to whether or not someone is legally married under the law. One can only become divorced after being legally married. Until you are divorced legally, you remain legally married to the person you married. You do not have to have been granted a divorce in order to ask the Family Court to resolve financial settlement or make Orders in relation to arrangements for children of the relationship – either or both of financial and children’s issues can be finalised through Court Orders at any stage after separation; but will only become legally binding and enforceable upon ratification by the Family Court.
The critical connection between divorce and financial settlement is that a party is not permitted to bring an Application for financial settlement more than 12 months after a divorce has been granted (unless the Court grants leave for filing the Application out of time).
Step 1 – Separation
Period of time before divorce application – 12 months
Australian law provides for a 12-month separation period before a party may make application for divorce. This is the sole ground the Court will consider in determining whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there is no prospect of reconciliation.
Financial circumstances sometimes make this timetable almost impossible, especially where young children are involved and suitable arrangements have to be made. The family law acknowledges that parties may be effectively separated (for divorce or financial settlement issues) but continue to live under one roof. Clearly, living under the one roof can be quite awkward.
However, financial settlement and arrangements for the care of children can take place any time after the parties’ separation (even in an “under the one roof” separation).
But, no divorce application will be considered by the Court if it is submitted inside the 12 month period since separation. The granting of such an Application simply means that the parties are no longer legally married and may marry another person.
Step 2 – Filing for divorce
Period of time – from 4 – 8 weeks
Once there has been 12 months continuous separation, either or both spouse may file for divorce.
The divorce application will be listed for a hearing in the Family Court in 4-6 weeks and, in most circumstances, parties do not have to attend. If you have been married for less that 24 months and/or have children of the marriage under 18 there may be other considerations to take into account (check out the Family Court of Western Australia guidelines on this).
There are fees to pay for a Divorce Application.
Step 3 – Divorce hearing
Period of time – from 1 day
Between 4 – 8 weeks after application is filed, the Divorce Hearing will take place.
The Court will determine whether you have met with all the criteria and will ask for all settlement agreements you may have reached regarding financial matters, splitting of assets and parenting arrangements made for children under 18 through the Family Law Resolution mediator.
Step 4 – Finalised Divorce
Period of time – 1 month + 1 day
If the Court finds that you have met with all the necessary requirements and all other matters have been agreed upon, it will usually take one month and one day for the divorce to be made legal.
Why Divorce Mediation Can Speed Up Your Divorce
Mediation can assist in resolving a fair financial settlement and settling appropriate Orders for ongoing arrangements with children. As pointed out above, you don’t have to wait for any period of time to elapse after separation to get these issues settled. And, like most things, getting stuff resolved becomes more difficult as time goes by. Best to get on to it and get resolution as soon as practicable.
Although there is also no hard and fast rule, divorce mediation is a much quicker process than any Court procedure, is less stressful and keeps costs to a minimum.
Mediators focus on finding solutions and, being accredited by the National Mediators Accreditation Scheme and registered as a lawyer, they are qualified to provide independent guidance as well as their vast experience in dealing with all children’s matters.
As this process is purely voluntary, mediators will encourage both parties to be open and frank in disclosing information, such as earnings, investments, business interests, assets and debt, to make the process as speedy and less costly as possible. Having a close friend or relative present during the mediation may relieve some of the anxiety either partner may experience.
Mediators also allow each party to have their own independent lawyer present for a second opinion, if both parties agree to that, which offers them an added layer of protection on whatever decisions they may need to take.
Mediators are bound by strict confidentiality laws, and, unlike a Court case, the entire process remains private and confidential.
Mediators will guide both parties through the whole process and will also draw up draft Minutes of Proposed Consent Orders and provide a guide to assist you in submitting submit an Application to the Family Court to obtain Orders.
Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth.
He has helped hundreds of separating couples across the city and WA to divorce quickly, amicably and affordably.
To find out whether Ian is the right divorce mediator for you, get in touch now.