Online Divorce in Australia: A Step by Step Guide to eFiling


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efiling and online divorceSince 2009, separating couples have been able to file applications for divorce electronically (eFiling) via the Commonwealth Courts Portal at www.comcourts.gov.au.

The Commonwealth Courts Portal (the Portal) is an initiative by the Family Court of Australia to increase efficiency in dealing with cases and provide a more convenient way to file documents before the court. The service enables separating couples to file an Application for Divorce from the comfort of their home.

This guide provides information on the process to eFiling pursuant to Rules 2.07A and 2.07B Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.

What do you need?

Before you commence eFiling your Application for Divorce, you will need access to the internet, an email, a printer and a scanner. This is because access to the Portal requires you to register with an email and when uploading documents, you are required to scan it. For example, you will need to scan a copy of your marriage certificate. You may also need to upload Proof of Australian citizenship, Affidavits, and evidence of exemption, if required. More information on divorce can be found on the Family Law Courts website: www.familylawcourts.gov.au. The process of eFiling will be described below as a step by step guide.

Step 1: Registering with the Portal

You must register to the Commonwealth Courts portal at www.comcourts.gov.au. Access to the Portal may only be given to you, if you are a person who acts as a professional advisor in relation to the family law proceedings.1 So you may need to find legal assistance. Once registered, you can log onto the Portal and complete the divorce application form online. The website will prompt you to enter relevant details and to upload relevant documents.

If you wish to file a joint application, only one of the applicants will need to complete the Application for Divorce eForm. However, make sure details of both parties are provided.

Step 2: Completing the Application for Divorce eForm

There are several parts to the application. Once you complete each part, you will be prompted to either save or validate each part. Saving a part means you will save where you are up to in the form. Whereas, validating a part checks for missing details. After completing the parts, you will be prompted to questions that will determine what documents you will need to upload or lodge at the register. Here, you will need to upload a scanned copy of your marriage certificate and other documents if required. If your marriage certificate is not in English, you will need to provide a translated copy as well as a copy of an Affidavit from the translator.

It should be strictly noted that the documents scanned must be uploaded as a PDF (ADOBE Portable Document Format). The size of the file size cannot exceed 10mb and must be in an easily readable form. These formats are pursuant to Rules 2.07A.2For your convenience, the Portal provides a free PDF convertor tool to allow you to follow these rules. The Court has recognised that these rules are clear as to how filing by electronic communication must be, and the electronic format must be in accordance to the format approved for the registry.3 In this case, documents were sent by email were not properly filed.

Step 3: Payments and Costs

After completing your details, you will be prompted for payment or to upload evidence for an exemption of Court fees. You can apply for an Application for Reduction of Court fees if you are having financial hardship. You may also be entitled for a reduction of court fees if you hold relevant entitlements cards, been granted Legal Aid, is receiving a government allowance or is under 18.4 To submit an application for exemption, you must file the application form in person at the registry or file by post. You cannot file an Application for a Reduction of Court fees electronically or through the Portal. Nevertheless, if this is your line of action, you must upload a scanned copy of both sides of your entitlement card. Make sure it is signed and current.

If you do not seek for a reduction, you can pay immediately with a Credit Card. Costs for an application for divorce is $800 and a reduced fee of $265.5 Note the reduction is only in relation to Court fees.

Step 4: Select Hearing Date on Completion

After the payment is approved, a new file will be created and a file number created. You will be prompted to select a preferred Court date from a list of available hearing dates.  Once the application is complete and successfully filed via the Portal, a sealed Confirmation Notice will be available to download and be printed from the Portal. A sealed copy of the application form will also be available, along with the file number.

Step 5: Uploading Affidavits

Once the application is completed, the Portal will automatically generate an Affidavit for eFiling Application (Divorce). This will need to be sworn or affirmed before a lawyer, Justice of the Peace or any authorised personnel, and then uploaded as a scanned copy. A sealed copy will also be generated and available to download. If it is a joint application, both parties need to submit an Affidavit each.

What happens next?

The process of eFiling is finished. However, eFiling only provides a service to file applications and documents to the Court. You will still need to serve these documents on your spouse. You cannot do this with the Port also it must be done by post or by hand via another adult. If you have made a joint application, you do not need to serve your spouse with any documents. More information can be found in the Divorce Service Kit, found on the Family Court Website: www.familylawcourts.gov.au

Late eFiling

Documents may be electronically uploaded at any time. Documents that are eFiled are usually immediately accepted once they are uploaded. A sealed copy of documents is then immediately available to download. This means administration is quicker and more efficient for practitioners as documents can be filed on the day of the hearing. However, it also means Judicial Officers may be strict on granting leave to file documents that could have been filed. If documents are filed late, practitioners must comply with the rules about late eFiling.6

What happens to your Personal Details?

The Portal is a secure system that stores all your personal details in a confidential database which is separate from the court’s main case management system. The data is only stored for 60 days. Therefore, applications not yet submitted will be permanently deleted after 60 days of inactivity.7

Success of eFiling

eFiling is now a popular method for filing documents before the court. It is a lot quicker than lodging an application in person at the Registry or by post because it mitigates travel costs and time considerations related to on-site divorce applications. Since its commencement in 2009, 26,365 applications have been eFiled and now averaging about156 per week.8 The benefits of eFiling are continually promoted in Queensland and Melbourne with further growth in the use of such services.9

It is particularly beneficial to legal practitioners especially those dealing with multiple federal law matters in the court at the one time. The service is efficient in filing documents and is not limited to filing divorce applications. It is further beneficial in enhancing access to justice in rural and regional areas of Australia.10 The initiative is able to mitigate expenses and time considerations associated with traveling to the cities to file applications and documents in person.

  1. Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Practice Direction No 2 of 2008 – Filing of Supplementary Documents and Divorce Application by Electronic Communication, 12 February 2011. 
  2. Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 (Cth). 
  3. Director of the Fair Work Building Inspectorate v Zion Tiling Pty Ltd and Anor (No2)  2013 FCCA 1288.
  4. Guidelines can be found under Family Law (Fees) Regulations 2012. 
  5. Family Law (Fees) Regulation 2012, sch 1, s 2.02.
  6. Federal Circuit Court of Australia, above n 1.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Chief Justice Judge John Pascoe, Federal circuit Court of Australia 2012-13 Annual Report (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013), 44. 
  9. Ibid, 186.
  10. Ibid, 61.
Julie cheung

Julie cheung

Online Legal Information Author at Family Law Express
I am undertaking my third year of a Bachelor of Combined Arts/ Law at the University of New South Wales with a major in philosophy and minor in sociology.  I am interested in pursuing a legal career particularly in Family Law or Criminal Law, especially aiming to improve and ensure equal access to justice by addressing the issues in these areas of law and difficulties faced by the people.
Julie cheung
Categories: eFiling
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