By Alexandra Metherell

18 October 2016

In recent weeks, Hollywood bombshell couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, called it quits after two years of marriage and 12 years together. Jolie filed for divorce, with allegations of domestic abuse and infidelity circling in the following days. The avalanche of media attention that ensued brought the subject of divorce back into the spotlight, marking the perfect time to clear up some common misconceptions about this topic.

So, what does the term “filing for divorce” actually mean here in Australia?
People often believe divorce is the legal mechanism by which a couple determines the division of their property and financial assets, and arrangements for their children (if any). However, this is not the case. In Australia, the granting of a divorce is simply the legal severance of a marriage.
To “file for divorce” or rather, make a divorce application, a marriage must have irretrievably broken-down. The parties must also have been separated for a period of 12 months prior to the date of filing the divorce application.
Once a divorce has been granted, parties to a marriage then have a period of a further 12 months, without first having to seek the leave of the court, to file an application for final property orders.

Upon the separation of a married couple, they must consider how to divide their assets and determine the care arrangements for the children (if any) arising from their relationship. When a family lawyer is first retained, it is these issues, and not a divorce per se, that are addressed first and foremost.

Property and parenting matters can be dealt with and resolved immediately after separation. It is irrelevant whether a couple is still legally married or not. Thankfully, in Australia we do not have to wait until parties are divorced to sort out their affairs.

There are a number of ways to resolve financial and parenting matters after separation. If parties are in agreement on the division of property and spousal maintenance, then a financial agreement or consent orders can be arranged. Similarly, if parties can reach consensus as to the future care arrangements of their children, then a parenting plan or parenting orders can be implemented.

We appreciate that the post-separation legal process can seem complicated. Our family law department is experienced in guiding parties through their separation and the quagmire that is the family law system. If you require further information regarding the severance of your financial relationship, how to implement future parenting arrangements or the granting of a divorce, please contact Aaron van der Heyden or Alexandra Jelley of our family law department.

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