There is no getting away from the fact that divorce can be expensive, for both parties. There is the divorce lawyer to pay, court fees, and then there is the financial settlement, which can often create winners and losers, depending on which side of the marriage you are on,
However, it is not all bad news, because there are ways in which you can reduce the amount you have to pay, and this is in relation to the cost of going to court if your financial circumstances mean you are struggling to pay, or are suffering from financial hardship.
As with any scheme of this type, there are a number of criteria that must be met, and the first of these is whether or not you are actually eligible to apply.
So, if any of these apply, you should be eligible:
- You are under 18 years of age
- You are currently serving a prison sentence
- You are being detained in a public institution such as a mental health facility
- You hold one of the following cards: 1) Pensioner Concession Card 2) Health Care Card 3) Commonwealth Seniors Card 4) Other recognised health concession card
- With respect to the divorce hearing, you are in receipt of legal aid, either from the state/territory or from an approved scheme, such as those administered by local legal centres.
- You receive one of the following benefits: 1) Austudy Payment 2) Youth Allowance 3) Abstudy benefits
If none of the above apply to you, you can still make an application if you can show you are suffering financial hardship. Here you need to show that your income from all sources is much less than your outgoings and the financial commitments that you must pay.
If you have been granted legal aid from a legal aid organisation or are receiving financial assistance in relation to your case from another provider, you are required to send or show copies of the award.
Alternatively, a letter from the organisation providing the financial assistance outlining how much aid you are receiving must be provided with your application.
You can apply for a deferral of fees, a reduction of fees, or an exemption to pay fees. A deferral means that you will ultimately be liable to pay the fees, but given your current financial circumstances, the due date for payment is postponed. Note, that any fees are payable within 28 days of the fee’s deferral date.
When deciding upon a deferral consideration will be made as to how unreasonable it is to expect you to make immediate payment of any court fees based on your current financial position
Regardless of which of the above criteria applies to you, your application for deferral, exemption, or reduction of fees will be considered by an authorised officer of the court, or a registrar.
They will base that decision by considering your income, assets, daily expenditure, living costs, and liabilities, and whether or not they show that you are indeed suffering from financial hardship.
Note that each application you make is assessed individually, which means even if you had an exemption granted for fees payable for an earlier hearing, any new application will be considered afresh.
When your application has been considered by the registrar or authorised officer, they will give you their decision in writing. If they refuse your application, you can appeal their decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.