Most Common Reasons for Divorce in Australia

Posted on November 21, 2023 by Alex Bourne

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

Key Takeaways:

  • The common reasons for divorce in Australia are categorised into affective reasons, abusive behaviours, and external pressures.
  • Recent divorce rates in Australia stand at 2.2 divorces per 1,000 residents.
  • The most common reasons for divorce in Australia include domestic violence, substance abuse, childcare responsibilities, infidelity, poor communication, financial issues, and constant conflicts.
  • The no-fault divorce system adopted in 1975 aims to reduce hostility and encourage alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation.
  • Couples must be separated for at least 12 months before applying for divorce.
  • Mediation can be a cost-effective, efficient, and empowering way to resolve divorce disputes.

Reasons for divorce in Australia – An overview

The Australian Institute of Family Studies categorises the common reasons for divorce as being either affective reasons, abusive behaviours or external pressures. These are defined below as:

Affective Reasons have more of an emotional basis and can result in difficulties in communicating effectively, arguing and a lack of incompatibility with one another. This can lead to issues such as financial strain, infidelity, communication problems, and drug use.

Abusive Behaviours include behavioural issues, where one spouse may impact the mental and/or physical well-being of the other spouse or family members including children, through certain behaviours. This can include physical, verbal and emotional abuse, as well as substance abuse (alcohol and drugs).

External Pressures are factors that are outside the personal relationship between the spouses that could put strain, pressure on or impact their relationship including work, physical and/or mental health, family and in-laws, and financial stress.

For many couples, there is not one single reason for their divorce, but rather a combination of some or all of these factors:

  • Domestic Violence or Emotional Abuse
  • Alcohol/Substance Abuse
  • Infidelity/Extramarital Affairs
  • Parenting Arrangements/Child Care Responsibilities
  • Continual Argumentative Conflict with Spouse
  • Poor Communication Skills
  • Financial Issues.

Divorce is a complex and personal decision that involves many emotional, legal and practical implications. If you are thinking about divorce or separation, it is important to seek professional advice and support. As experienced divorce lawyers in Sydney, we are equipped with the expertise to help you navigate the process and protect your rights and interests.

What percentage of marriages end in divorce in Australia?

Marriage and divorce rates in Australia are influenced by various factors, such as personal, social, legal, and economic. While most people don’t enter into a marriage anticipating that it is going to end in the future, divorce might be a lot more common than you realise.

Recent divorce rates stand at 2.2 divorces per 1,000 Australian residents and statistics reveal that up to 33% of all Australian marriages are expected to end in divorce.

And it keeps growing.

This percentage has been gradually rising since 1975, with the introduction of the Family Law Act and ‘no-fault divorce’, meaning that the cause of the breakdown was irrelevant to one’s ability to obtain a divorce.

In 2021, 56,244 divorces were granted in Australia, an increase of 13.6% when compared to 49,510 divorces in 2020 and 49,116 divorces in 2019.

The reason for divorce can be anything ranging from falling out of love, conflict within the relationship, infidelity, issues with relatives of their spouse, addiction issues, mental health reasons and domestic or family violence.

In this article, we discuss some of these reasons, the Family Law Act 1975 and the no-fault system, divorce mediation, the legal process and steps involved, and your options when it comes to getting divorced in Australia.

Most Common Reasons for Divorce in Australia

Domestic Violence or Emotional Abuse

Domestic and family violence is any behaviour that causes physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological harm and/or any coercive control towards a family member. It can occur in any type of relationship, including between spouses, de facto partners, parents and children, siblings, and other family members.

Unfortunately, domestic and family violence is disturbingly common within Australia with 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16.1 men experiencing physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner.

It is also a common factor in many separations and divorces, with 66% of marriages in Australia ending due to domestic violence, coercive control and emotional abuse.

Domestic Violence, The Family Law Act and the Courts

Family and domestic violence is taken very seriously, and there are legal remedies available to protect those who are affected.

The Family Law Act 1975 recognises the importance of protecting family members from violence and takes a zero-tolerance approach to family violence in all family law proceedings. The act outlines the legal framework for family law in Australia and includes provisions to ensure the safety and well-being of family members in cases of family violence.

In cases of family violence, the Court will take into account any evidence of violence or abuse when making these decisions regarding:

Learn more about domestic and family violence here and the new coercive control laws here.

Domestic Abuse & Divorce- Your First Steps

Separation and divorce are already difficult processes, and when family violence is involved, they can become even more complicated, confusing and emotional, especially when figuring out your first steps in terms of legal proceedings.

  1. Contact authorities
    The first and most important step is to contact the authorities right away and give them any evidence you may have.
  2. File for a Family Violence Order
    A family violence order is a Court order commonly referred to as an AVO, that is designed to protect an individual or victims from domestic abuse, stalking or harassment from a family member who has a history of family violence including mental or physical harm or has made previous threats. Family violence orders are either made as an interim order or a final order and you do not have to have been physically harmed for the Court to consider your request for an AVO. Once a family violence order is served it will normally have conditions attached to it. These conditions give the protected person the legal right to forbid the person it is served to from acting in a particular manner, including:

    • Not consuming alcohol.
    • Not assaulting, stalking, harassing, threatening, or intimidating the protected person.
    • Not intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging any property belonging to the protected person.
    • Not trying to find the protected person.
    • Not going near where the protected person lives, works, or spends time.
      Family violence orders and AVO can be applied for with the assistance of the police or by making an application directly to the Court.
      In many cases, a family violence order can apply to children to keep them safe from violence, harassment, stalking or abuse.
      However, if you have a protection order against you this does not automatically mean that you will not be able to see or spend time with your children. The unique details of your situation and the conditions of the order will determine this.
  3. File for a Child Court order
    Access to a child can be denied, but only by the Court and through a Child Court Order. Child Court orders protect the child from being subjected and exposed to domestic abuse and family violence including physical, emotional or psychological harm. However, it’s not a decision that the Court will make lightly and is only considered if there are concerns about the well-being and safety of the child and it’s in the best interest of the child. For such a Court order, the parent requesting the Court order needs to demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds for the denial of access and provide evidence of strong weight that the Court will review before making this decision.
  4. Seek legal advice
    Family violence can impact the separation process even if it has not been reported or documented in the past. While it may not always be possible in every situation, if you’re experiencing domestic or family violence, in a situation where you are considering applying to the Courts for family course orders, denied child access or you’ve had an application made against you, we highly recommend seeking legal advice from a family law specialist. Divorce and family matters can be complex and highly emotional to manage on your own. A family lawyer can help you understand your rights and obligations, as well as help protect you and your family from further violence.

How can we help?

Whether you’ve taken out an AVO or protection order against another person or you’ve had one taken out against you, it’s important that you understand the requirements of the orders as well as your options, especially if you and the other party have children. Protection orders and family violence can make parenting complicated; however, the safety of your child is paramount, and we’re here to help you today. Discuss your situation with us today. Call us on 1800 952 338 or book a free consultation.

Alcohol/Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and addiction are also common issues in Australia. Alcohol and substance abuse can also have a significant impact and range of problems for a relationship, including domestic, emotional, physical, or family abuse. It can lead to a breakdown in communication, an increase in conflicts, financial strain and lack of trust and intimacy

A marriage breakdown due to alcohol or substance abuse can be stressful and result in the need for legal intervention as well as financial hardship.

It can place you under significant stress, and it is difficult to know what is required of you or what your options are.

At Unified Lawyers, we’re a specialised family law firm that is dedicated to helping people all over Australia resolve their family law matters and find the best outcomes to suit them. We provide advice, representation, and resolutions so that you can move forward with your life.

Infidelity/Extramarital Affairs

Infidelity is the second most common factor in many separations and divorces within Australia, with 70% of all marriages experiencing an affair at some point.

In most cases, affairs and cheating lead to a breakdown of trust, a feeling of anger, betrayal, and insecurity, which commonly also results in a breakdown of the relationship. Infidelity can cause significant emotional pain and damage to the relationship and is the leading cause of 65% of divorces in Australia.

Infidelity in a relationship can be a complex and multifaceted issue. Each case is unique, and the reasons for it can vary widely from one situation to another. Some common reasons for infidelity include:

  • One party has come forward about being gay
  • Lack of emotional connection
  • Communication issues
  • Lack of intimacy, attention, or appreciation
  • Personal insecurities
  • Opportunity and temptation
  • Peer influence
  • Addiction or impulse control issues
  • Revenge or retaliation
  • The parties no longer share the same interests or goals
  • The parties’ children have left home, and the parties are no longer able to get along without other people living in the house.

Infidelity, the Family Law Act and the Courts

Before the 1975 Family Law Act, infidelity could be used as one of the few legal reasons someone could get divorced in Australia. Marriage was seen as a contract, and for a breach of this contract due to infidelity, your spouse’s behaviour or actions had to be proven.

After the Family Law Act and new divorce laws came into effect, the laws around infidelity have changed significantly. As the Australian divorce system is a no-fault system, the divorce process is now separate from matters such as property settlements and parenting arrangements, and if your spouse has an affair, this doesn’t automatically cause legal ramifications.

However, infidelity can still have an impact when resolving matters like property settlements and parenting arrangements.

Property settlements

A property settlement is the process of distributing the assets of the relationship, including those acquired before, during, and sometimes even after the relationship.

In some countries, infidelity may be able to be leveraged to receive a better property or financial settlement. Whereas, in Australia, your spouse having an affair doesn’t automatically entitle you to receive a greater property settlement outcome.

However, infidelity can sometimes be considered a factor in the property settlement process.

If matrimonial funds or assets were used recklessly or in a negligent way to conduct the adulterous relationship and are seen to influence the other party, it could result in an adjusted property settlement to reflect this.

When ‘wastage’ is brought into question, the unique details of the situation will be used to determine whether this has occurred.

Parenting arrangements

When a couple with children separates, arguably the most important decisions surround the ongoing parenting of their children.

An act of adultery doesn’t impact parenting matters that need to be decided by the Courts and regardless of whether parents are together or not, unless an order states otherwise, both parents have “equal shared parental responsibility

The parents of a child can choose to make parenting arrangements themselves and can keep these informal or formalise them through a Court order known as a consent order or a parenting order. However, if parents are unable to make decisions about their children, a Court may be required to intervene and make these decisions for them.

If there has been infidelity in your relationship, talk to us today.

Whether you’ve recently found out that your spouse has had an affair and you’re considering divorce, or you are the partner who has been accused of cheating on their spouse, you can discuss your situation and obtain legal advice from our experienced divorce lawyers. Our team is highly experienced in all aspects of divorce and separation. We can answer questions relating to your unique, specific circumstances and ensure you understand your options and obligations.

Divorce is already difficult; you don’t need to make it harder by doing it alone. Call Unified Lawyers at 1800 431 519 or book a consultation.

Parenting Arrangements/Childcare Responsibilities

Parenting arrangements and childcare responsibilities are also the most common reasons for divorce in Australia. The demands of parenting can be emotionally and physically draining; it can lead to arguments, conflicts and miscommunication, and put a strain on your relationship

Issues include:

  • Irreconcilable differences in parenting styles
  • Disagreements about child-rearing
  • Disagreements about discipline

Separation or divorce can be a stressful time, especially when children are involved. There’s much emotional and physical upheaval as you change your life and try to move on. It can be an uncertain and confusing time for your kids.

Australian family law requires parents to act in the best interests of their children, to try and smooth the way for the kids’ adjustment to a different life, especially when there’s a divorce.

As part of this, they must demonstrate that they’ve made appropriate parental arrangements and plans for their kids (including financially).

Parenting matters and arrangements

Parenting arrangements and plans usually relate to how the parents will care for their children moving forward, including where the children live and how they spend their time. If you’re separating from your spouse or partner, Australian family law sets out some basic principles for negotiating parenting arrangements:

  • Both parents should equally share parenting responsibilities
  • Parents should try and resolve parenting issues without going to Court
  • Both parents are responsible for their children until the children are 18 years old.

Parenting matters and the law 

Parental responsibility is referred to in the Family Law Act 1975 and means that both parents are equally responsible for decisions about the care, education and welfare of their children unless there are good reasons against this.

For more information, see our page on parental responsibility.

Child support

Child support is the term given to payments that parents make to support their children when the parents are no longer in a relationship with one another. It’s sometimes referred to as child maintenance.

The child support system aims to ensure children’s financial needs are met. Both parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children, but their obligations depend on many things including their income, their other financial duties, the children’s expenses, and how much care each parent provides for the children.

Need a parenting plan that’s in the best interests of your kids? We can help you through the process of making parenting and access arrangements for your children.

It is important to seek legal advice to help you understand your rights, responsibilities, and the law applicable to your matter. Our experienced family law team can explain the process further and assist you throughout all stages of your matter.

Continual argumentative conflict with spouse

Marriage can sometimes be hard, and disagreements happen in almost all relationships. But unspoken hurts or conflicts may build up, create tension, and end in consistently arguing or ‘bickering’ that can be both frustrating and detrimental to a marriage. In fact, a study found that 37% of divorced couples in Australia cited constant bickering or conflict as the reason for their divorce.

Sometimes it can feel lonely, and it’s understandable when you feel your marriage breaking down that you’re going to be feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and exhausted a little more than usual.

Social media

However, you should be mindful when posting details about family law matters on social media, which can also be harmful, particularly if you’re involved in any legal matters. Photos, videos, and general content that is uploaded to a social media platform can be admissible as evidence in legal matters.

Social media posts can be admissible as evidence in legal matters. Photos, videos, and general content and posts may be used as evidence of a person’s lifestyle and character or to prove that they have contradicted themselves in legal documents.

Learn more about the impact of social media on family law matters here.

Children being exposed to arguments

Unfortunately, when a couple who has children ends their relationship, all too often, the children are caught in the crossfire. Some parents expose their children to fights and disagreements with their other parent, while others choose to use their children as pawns and negotiation chips.

When it comes to family law and parenting matters, it’s important to be mindful of what your children are witnessing. A child should never be used as a sounding board to vent their frustrations about the other parent. They have the right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents.

If you’re making decisions for your children, then these need to be made with their best interests in mind, not just thinking about what you want.

Get professional legal advice 

However, while this is understandable, you may be frustrated and want to vent or get advice. You don’t need to go through these things alone.

A lot of people tend to avoid legal services because they think they need to be involved in a dispute.

However, during a divorce or separation, you’ll be making a lot of decisions, usually about quite big things in your life, like your living arrangements, how you will parent your children, what happens to your pets, and financial arrangements.

Even when an ex-partner has done something to hurt and/or upset you, when making these life-changing decisions, you need to take your time and take a step back. Understanding the bigger picture overall will help you make a decision that is going to be right for you, rather than making one out of frustration or spite.

Engaging a family lawyer can make the entire process a lot easier to manage. A family lawyer can help you understand your obligations and responsibilities, as well as ensure that any agreements you make are sound and suitable.

Most family lawyers and law firms offer free initial consultations, and this is a great way for you to be able to not only discuss your matter with your potential lawyer and receive practical advice but also figure out if they feel like a good fit for you. As legal matters can be very overwhelming, it can be easy to rush the process of finding a lawyer, but as family lawyers, we firmly believe that finding the right lawyer for you is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome for you. We’re here to help you

At Unified Lawyers, we understand how overwhelming and stressful family law matters can be, and it’s our job to make them a lot easier to manage for you. Whether you’re going through a particularly nasty divorce or you’re simply looking for advice, our family law firm is here to help you so you can make informed decisions. Our experienced team works with people all over Australia to resolve their family law disputes, and we have offices based in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. Call us today on 1300 667 461 or book your free first consultation.

Poor Communication Skills

Couples often find it difficult to communicate effectively with each other, leading to conflicts, misunderstandings, and emotional distance. In fact, poor communication skills are cited to make up 27% of the reasons couples in Australia divorce.

Examples of communication problems include:

  • Avoiding talking or communicating about certain topics or talking altogether.
  • Lack of active listening and a partner not being fully present during a conversation.
  • Interruptions and talking over each other, which can prevent couples from understanding each other’s perspectives.
  • Defensiveness can make it difficult to resolve conflicts.
  • Unreasonable blaming and criticism without proof and credibility, which create trust issues and miscommunication.
  • Withholding emotions and feelings, which can create a lack of intimacy and cause emotional distance.
  • Poor communication skills can also be caused by financial constraints or issues.

Financial Issues

Financial constraints/issues are another common reason for divorce in Australia. Financial issues can cause a lack of communication, a breakdown of trust, and arguments regarding debt, unemployment, or the unequal distribution of household expenses, which can further contribute to the breakdown and end of a marriage.

Financial issues and divorce can often be confusing, upsetting, and difficult to understand. Many people avoid using the services of a lawyer because they believe that it is going to be a costly exercise, especially when a divorce is due to financial constraints and issues.

Now, we’re not going to pretend that a family lawyer’s service isn’t expensive, but depending on your unique circumstances, these costs could be significantly outweighed by the outcome of your case, and often the costs of engaging a lawyer are less than you may think.

Whether your matter is resolved through negotiation, mediation, or Court action, it’s not uncommon for people to find it difficult to remove the emotional aspect from their family law matters. This can make it harder to make decisions and see a way forward clearly.

A lawyer is trained to take your personal situation into account and provide their services without being caught up in or distracted by emotions. A family lawyer uses the facts of the case and the desired outcomes of their clients to find the best options available in their circumstances. This can often lead to a faster and more seamless resolution.

They can help you understand where you stand legally and you the best chance of finding the most appropriate outcome to suit your circumstances.

While you may be capable of navigating your way through a legal matter yourself, a family lawyer can answer your questions, provide advice, and ensure that you’re aware of every option available to you in your circumstances.

Many lawyers also offer a free first consultation, as we do here at Unified Lawyers. This gives you a chance to discuss your matter, and we can provide a cost estimate to resolve your matter before you commit to using our services.

The Family Law Act and the no-fault divorce system

1975 saw the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) which saw a significant shift in the way family relationships and the breakdown of them were handled. It shifted the focus away from finding blame and toward a more compassionate, forward-looking approach where the law recognised that sometimes relationships just break down, no blame needed.

After the Family Law Act and new divorce laws came into effect, how you could obtain a divorce changed significantly.

In order to divorce, you no longer need to prove that a spouse was at fault – rather the system became and still is a no-fault divorce system. Instead, a couple just needs to show that they have a valid marriage and that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of their relationship, which is evidenced by a separation period of at least 12 months.

One of the aims of the no-fault divorce system was to reduce the hostility that surrounds divorce and, instead, ease the stress of divorce by making the process easier. The breakdown of any relationship is already difficult without the additional pressure of proving the fault of one party. The no-fault divorce system also encourages people to use other means to resolve their issues, such as mediation and alternative dispute resolution. While Court action and heated debates aren’t always able to be avoided, by making the divorce process easier, there is the potential for civil relationships to move forward.

The no-fault divorce system also has the benefit of making it easier for people who are stuck in difficult and/or abusive marriages to end the relationship.

How to Apply for a Divorce in Australia

The process of applying for a divorce in Australia is relatively simple; the matters that arise when a couple ends a marriage tend to be more difficult to resolve.

The following is a summary of the divorce application process in Australia:

  1. Separation
    You and your partner need to separate for at least 12 months. To separate, both parties need to be aware of the separation; they don’t necessarily need to agree with it, but they do need to be aware.
  2. Submitting a divorce application
    A divorce application can be submitted online by one or both parties. There are important details to include, like your marriage certificate (information about the documents you may need can be found here). One party can apply for divorce, and this is known as a sole application for divorce. If the parties apply together, this is a joint application. A party does not need their spouse’s permission to submit the application. Applying for divorce does have costs and up-to-date cost information can be found on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website here.
  3. Serving the application
    This step is about ensuring your partner is aware of the divorce application and is only required when a sole application for divorce is submitted. There are specific rules about how to do this, which you can read about here.
  4. Setting a hearing date and attending (if necessary)
    Once everything is in order, there might be a Court hearing. For many, this step is as simple as awaiting an online notification with the divorce order. However, if complications arise or if children are involved, attending a divorce hearing might be necessary.
  5. Receiving the divorce order
    After the Court is satisfied with all the details, you’ll receive your divorce order. This document marks the official end of your marriage and a new chapter in your life.

What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

In Australia, as long as you meet the requirements for divorce, you do not need to apply for divorce with your spouse. You can apply for a sole divorce application, and you do not need your spouse to sign the application to be able to lodge it. 

The Court will grant a divorce order if they are satisfied that the marriage has broken down and there is no reasonable likelihood that you will get back together.

If you are applying for divorce solely, then you will be required to serve them with the divorce application. This is to ensure that the other party is notified of the pending divorce application.

Do all divorce cases need to go to Court?

You may be required to attend Court for a divorce if you are applying solely.

If you’re considering applying for divorce solely, we recommend discussing your situation with a family lawyer who can help you understand the process and even help you complete the correct paperwork efficiently.

Does divorce mediation help?

Divorce mediation can be a highly empowering dispute resolution method for all parties involved, as it allows them to have control over the outcome of their matter. It can also be a more efficient and cost-effective method of dispute resolution than going to Court.

Mediation can be a very successful and beneficial process for all parties involved. Besides being a way to come to an agreement, it also provides the following benefits:

  • Cost-effective: Divorce mediation is typically less expensive than Court proceedings, where you may be required to pay legal and Court costs.
  • Faster process: While mediation for divorce may take multiple sessions, it is usually a more efficient process than going through Court proceedings.
  • Flexibility: As the parties involved work together to come to an agreement, they can tailor the agreement to suit their unique circumstances.

Next steps: Speak to a divorce lawyer

If you’re going through a marriage breakdown and you need to get divorced, or you have questions about mediation in family law matters, get in touch with our experienced family law team today.

Divorce and the matters that arise can be complicated and cause conflict; however, our team can help you resolve them and find an outcome that suits you.

Sometimes it can feel lonely, and it’s understandable when you feel your marriage breaking down that you’re going to be feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and exhausted a little more than usual.

Talk to Unified Lawyers today

Our highly experienced and compassionate family lawyers have helped people all over Australia with all kinds of family law issues that arise due to the end of a relationship, and our services are available to you.

We can discuss your situation during a free consultation, explain your options, and keep you informed every step of the way.

We take pride in removing the pressure from what is often a very stressful situation.

If you have been served with a divorce order or an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order and require legal advice, our lawyers will find out the exact circumstances and will work closely with you to resolve your matter.

We understand how difficult it can be to contemplate divorcing a spouse, especially when there are children to consider.

We aim to:

  • Understand your circumstances and what matters to you
  • Prioritise your children’s needs
  • Anticipate any issues or concerns
  • Give practical advice and strategies
  • Communicate with you regularly and clearly

Our professional duties are crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome for you and your children. We will honour those duties by:

  • Respecting your confidentiality
  • Acting in your best interests
  • Representing you with skill and expertise
  • Acting with honesty and integrity
  • Giving you written information about our costs

Please contact our team of divorce lawyers in Sydney for any advice about divorce proceedings, property settlements or custody negotiations today.

 

Unified Lawyers Alex Burne

Alex Bourne

Author
Alex practices almost exclusively within Family Law, where he has extensive experience in all family law related matters, including Property, Parenting, Divorce, LGBTI property settlements, De-Facto Relationships and Child Support. Alex regularly appears before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in often complex Family Law litigation including Parenting and Property matters.

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