Recovering from abuse

Less Than Two Years: When a Divorce Comes with Mandatory Marriage Counselling

The Australian courts have set some mandatory time frames when it comes to seeking a divorce. You must have been separated from your spouse for a minimum of one year before you can file for divorce. There are additional restrictions imposed upon marriages that have lasted for less than two years before filing for divorce. In these instances, you and your spouse must attend marriage counselling before the application for divorce can be filed. This two-year period is from between the date that your marriage was legally registered and the date that the application for divorce was filed with the courts. But what can you expect from this marriage counselling? And what about if you feel that counselling is not an option for you for whatever reason?

The Counselling Session

The relationship counselling is an effort to save the marriage and for you and your spouse to discuss the issues that you feel have led to the breakdown of the marriage with a qualified counsellor. In some instances, this counselling might lead to subsequent sessions where you and your spouse might change your respective minds about the divorce. The counsellor is not there to give his or her definitive opinion as to whether your relationship with your spouse has irrevocably broken down. They are merely there to discuss the reasons for the divorce and explore the possibility of repairing the relationship. The final decision to proceed with the divorce is still yours. You will need to present the counsellor with a blank certificate (which can be obtained from the Family Law Courts or the Federal Circuit Courts) which they will need to complete at the end of your counselling session. You will need to attach this completed certificate to your divorce application if you decide to proceed. But what about if you feel that counselling is not an option in your case?

When Counselling Is Not Possible

Sometimes it simply might not be possible for you and your spouse to attend counselling. What are some reasons for this?

  • Your spouse might have relocated overseas before the application for divorce was been filed.
  • You might not be able to locate your spouse, despite having made every reasonable effort.
  • There might be issues of domestic violence and you might have fears for your wellbeing.

In these instances, you will need to complete and submit an affidavit to the court, informing them of the reasons why counselling is not possible in your case. If your reasons are accepted, you will receive the court's permission to proceed with the divorce without attending marriage counselling.

While you are entitled to seek a divorce at any time, please remember that there can be additional conditions when you have been married for less than two years.