Some types of family law cases are straightforward and self-representation should be manageable in these cases. However, other family law cases are more complex and it is important to access whatever legal help you can.
Applying for a divorce: Finding the information you need
Information is available from the court to help manage straightforward applications for dissolution of marriage (e.g. where the divorce application is not contested by the other party and no children are involved). The Family Court website (www.familycourt.gov.au) has a resources page for self-represented litigants. (Also see Chapter 4.1: Marriage and divorce.)
Many community legal centres provide at least initial advice about handling your own divorce proceedings. VLA publishes extensive self-help resources online that are related to divorce and family law more broadly, including detailed guides to the rules and procedures for different types of family law cases (see www.legal.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers). Resources are published in English and several community languages.
The Family Court provides online e-filing for couples and sole applicants applying for a divorce. You must pay a fee to lodge a divorce application, even if it is straightforward. The fees are listed on the Family Court’s website (www.familycourt.gov.au). Fee reductions are available in some circumstances.
When your relationship has broken down, it can be difficult to deal with your ex-partner in court, particularly if they have legal representation and you do not. Where family violence is alleged, there are rules about one or both both parties having legal representation for a least some of the hearing, to prevent a victim-survivor being cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator.
It is strongly advised that you seek legal advice if the family law matter is complex (e.g. if there are disagreements about the care of children or the division of property, and where family violence has occurred).
If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, contact your nearest community legal centre (search at: www.fclc.org.au/find_a_community_legal_centre) and/or call VLA’s legal helpline (tel: 1300 792 387) to see what free legal advice you can receive. However, note that obtaining free full legal representation in family law matters is limited in Victoria, and is not usually available in matters solely concerning property disputes.
VLA publishes detailed resources for self-represented parties in family law cases; these are available online at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au.