Warning: Applying for a Divorce Online and Self Representation

It might seem like an easier and cheaper solution to consider representing yourself and applying for a divorce online, but could it cost you more in the long run? We spoke with one of our senior lawyers about online divorce applications and what traps to avoid.

Why does one require a family lawyer if it’s cheaper to go online to begin the process?

A lot of people complete their divorce application online. The online divorce application is quite user friendly and easy to complete, however there are a couple of things to be aware of if choosing to go this route.

(1) Children Under 18 Years of Age

If you have children under the age of 18, the court expects you to explain in your divorce application what the arrangements are for the children in light of the divorce. This will include and is not limited to; who the children live with, spend time with, and where they will attend school. Commonly, although a reasonable attempt may be made, there is not enough detail provided in an online divorce application as to what the arrangements are for the children.

Furthermore,  if there’s a child who is not necessarily your child, but is a child of your former partner, arrangements need to be outlined for them as well. Commonly the applicant, because that child is not theirs, will not include reference to that child in their application which makes the application faulty. If there is a child under the age of 18 years at the time you have filed for divorce and that child has lived in your household, then you need to disclose their existence and you need to address their arrangements.

(2) Service of the Application

The other thing to keep in mind when considering applying for a divorce online, is the issue of service of the application upon your ex partner.  Some individuals might mail off documents to their former spouse, and because you are relying on the postal service, and you are also relying on your former spouse to acknowledge receipt of those documents, you can fall foul of being able to prove to the court that they have actually been served.

There are also rules about when documents can be served. Often people do not realise that you must be able to prove that you’ve served a sealed copy of your divorce application with 28 clear days between the date of service and date of hearing. If you have  only served your former spouse say a week before the hearing , if they do not show up to the hearing and consent to the matter proceeding, it will be adjourned.

Why shouldn’t I represent myself in my divorce case?

Many people choose to represent themselves when going through a divorce, however these individuals are not getting advice and support specific to their situation. Self representation has actually recently come to the attention of the judiciary and the Commonwealth government due to so many who represent themselves experiencing delays in their cases. Some cases with urgent matters, where children’s lives and interests are being impaired, are being delayed and it has become a serious problem.

It’s not that an individual isn’t capable of representing themselves, rather it’s an issue with not everyone understanding the law involved. Because a legal case is a process, there are rules that need to be understood and followed. The judge at a court hearing is not allowed to help you or give you any advice.
A doctor would never expect a patient to perform a procedure on themselves. Sure, the patient may be able to complete the procedure but they wouldn’t do a very good job. The law can be hard to interpret and that is why there are experts available to interpret the law for you for your benefit.

It’s best to be legally represented by one of our expert lawyers so you can ensure that you are getting advice tailored to your specific situation to ensure a viable outcome to your case.  Engaging a lawyer will ensure that you do not have to worry about anything more than you have to, when going through a divorce.

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