What happens when a short marriage breaks down?

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It is a common misconception in Australia that for a married couple to get legally separated after a short marriage, an annulment can be achieved instead of divorce. This is only true in certain circumstances, for example if consent from one of the parties was not present leading into the marriage, if one of the parties was already married when entering the marriage, if the couple is related by blood or if one of the parties was not legally old enough to get married. Under most other circumstances, a divorce is required for a married couple to get legally separated after a short marriage.

The legal implications of divorce after a short marriage depend on many factors including the length of the marriage, if there are children from the marriage, and whether there is a history of domestic violence within the marriage.

What constitutes a short marriage in Australia?

If a marriage lasts for less than two years and the couple has been separated for at least twelve months, specific legalities apply which are different to those of a marriage that lasts longer than two years. The two years is calculated from the date of the marriage to the date of filing for divorce.

How to apply for divorce after a short marriage:

1. Seek legal advice.

The most important step for applying for divorce after a short marriage is seeking legal advice. A lawyer will be able to help assess your situation and give legal advice depending on your unique situation.

2. See a family counsellor, or apply for an affidavit.

In order to apply for divorce after a short marriage, a couple must either see a family counsellor with an aim to reconcile their differences, or if counselling is not an option, for example if one spouse refuses to attend or if there is a history of violence in the marriage, an affidavit must be applied for in order to get permission from the court to commence divorce proceedings. An affidavit is a document citing the evidence of why you are unable to proceed with family counselling.

3. Attend a court hearing if children are involved.

If there are children under the age of 18, from the marriage, the court hearing must be attended, otherwise an approved affidavit from the court might be enough to finalise divorce proceedings.

If you would like more information on how to end a short marriage in Australia, or if you need legal advice, contact Owen Hodge Lawyers on 1800 770 780.

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