Legal Aid for Divorce

Legal aid for divorce on the Sunshine Coast – 98% success rate


Legal Aid For Your Divorce on the Sunshine Coast

A divorce is an emotionally challenging time in anyone’s life and can be expensive specifically if you don’t understand the process. The intention of the information on this page is to help you better understand the legal process of getting divorced and the legal aid available to you on the Sunshine Coast.

If you would like to see how we can help you please call or send our office an email here.

Divorce Basics

The only legal requirement for a divorce is the irreversible breakdown of a marriage, which is proven by both parties being separated for 12 months with no chance of reconciliation.

After you have separated, you can either:

Both move out of the home

One party may move out

or you can both still live under one roof – this is called ‘separation under the one roof'.


Centrelink Requirements when Divorcing

You may need to provide proof of your living arrangements to an agency like Centrelink on the Sunshine Coast. The following criteria will be considered when your living arrangements are reviewed to decide if you’re ‘separated under the one roof’:

Are you sharing one bedroom?

Is there any sexual activity?

Are meals and domestic duties shared (in a different way to when you were married)

Are you still sharing money and bank accounts?

Do your family and friends think of you as separated?

We advise to get legal help if you want a divorce and are unsure if you meet the criteria to be regarded as separated. We also recommend you read this article:  11 steps to a pain free divorce.

You may be thinking it is just too hard to get divorced and as long as you are living separate lives it doesn’t matter. You need to remember you can’t get married again without first finalizing a divorce and staying married may impact your rights and responsibilities when dealing with financial matters, wills and property.

The Federal Circuit Court located on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane allows an online application that can be completed by either you or your ex-partner.

However either of you must meet the below criteria:

Are you sharing one bedroom?

Is there any sexual activity?

Are meals and domestic duties shared (in a different way to when you were married)

Are you still sharing money and bank accounts?

Do your family and friends think of you as separated?

You can still apply for a divorce if you were married overseas, you can read more about international divorce here.

Get legal advice from Shanahan Family Law, a Queensland Legal Aid Partner, if you’re unsure about whether your marriage is legal.

Arrangements involving children

The family court in Maroochydore will need to make sure proper arrangements have been made involving children before allowing a divorce to proceed. The family court will want to know:

You can read more about the legalities of children Involved In A Separation here

where the children will live

How the children will be financially supported

How will the children’s health and education needs be met

How the children will continue to maintain a relationship with both parents and other important people in their lives.

Getting back together for a short time

You can get back together for up to 3 months without having to restart the 12-month separation period. For example, if you’re separated for 4 months, get back together for almost 3 months and then separate again for 8 months, you’ll be considered to be separated for a total of 12 months. However, if you were back together for 4 months, only the most recent 8 months would count as the separation period.

Divorce from a short marriage

Parties married for less than 2 years can get a divorce, however it is conditional that both parties agree to counselling. If your partner refuses to get counselling, you can still proceed with the divorce however you will need legal counsel.

Applying for a divorce

You can apply for a divorce online through theFederal Circuit Court. The application fee is $930 and, in some situations, a reduced fee of $310 may apply. If you for any reason can’t apply online, you can get advice from Shanahan Family Law, a Queensland Legal Aid Partner, who is able to assist you with your family matter.

To apply for a divorce at the Federal Circuit Court located on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane you or your ex-partner need to:

Be an Australian Citizen

Live in Australia and consider it your permanent home

Lived in Australia for at least 12 months

Have been separated for 12 months

Now that we have covered some of the divorce basics, let’s explore Queensland’s Legal Aid, specifically looking at divorce on the Sunshine Coast.

How does Queensland Legal Aid decide who gets legal aid?

There is a big demand for legal aid on the Sunshine Coast and as such there are strict criteria when granting aid for legal representation. There are three sets of criteria to determine if legal aid will be granted:

The Legal Aid Queensland means test

Funding guidelines as well as a

Legal merits test which is used in most cases.

How does the means test work?

Queensland Legal Aid uses the means test to look at your income and assets to see if you are financially eligible for legal aid.

If you support or provide financial help to other people like a partner, children or other dependents, the means test takes this into account. Similarly, if someone supports you financially or provides financial then the means test will take this person’s income and assets into account. You will need to provide details of their income and assets in your legal aid application.

What income should be included in your legal aid application?

You will need to inform Queensland Legal Aid about any money you regularly receive like:

Your salary or wage

Money you receive from investments, share dividends, rent or payments from trusts

Income you receive from any insurance policy claim from accident to e.g. accident, sickness or disability benefits.

If you rely on Centrelink payments for your income, you will usually be eligible for legal aid. You will also need to include child maintenance and child support payments as income as well as any tax benefits.

Legal Aid considers the follow assets in the means test

Legal Aid Queensland take the following assets into account: property (houses, land), cash, shares, debentures or other investments, and the assets of any person who helps you financially unless you are applying for legal aid because you are in dispute with the person providing the financial support. Legal aid doesn’t include the following assets:

The house you live in (if the equity is $146,000 or less)

Cash you have saved to buy a home or land you own (if the equity is $146,000 or less); you must have signed a contract to buy or build a home before you knew about your legal problem for this cash or land to be exempt under the means test

Household furniture (unless it is exceptionally valuable)

Tools you need for your job (unless they are exceptionally valuable)

Your car or cars (unless you have over $16,000 in equity)

The first $2000 of an applicant’s savings.

How much can I earn and still get legal aid?

Queensland Legal Aid has set-up a Table 1 that shows how much gross weekly income you can earn and still be eligible for legal aid living on the Sunshine Coast. You will also be able to use the table to check if you might have to contribute towards your legal costs. Table 2 on the Queensland Legal Aid website shows how much you may have to pay towards your legal costs based on the value of your assets. Queensland Legal Aid will not approve your application if the amount you would have to pay towards your legal costs would be more than the grant of aid value.

If you feel you have special circumstances that need to be considered

Queensland Legal Aid have developed guidelines to help identify applicants who would not usually meet the means test but deserve special consideration because they experience multiple disadvantages. Queensland Legal Aid consider the following as special circumstances, if you are experiencing domestic violence, live in a remote area, have an intellectual, psychiatric, or physical disability or other disadvantage, you may be eligible for a grant of legal aid.

There are special circumstances guidelines relating to assets that will have to be met for you to qualify. Queensland Legal Aid allows for a condition to be attached to any grant of legal aid. For instance, you may be required to pay a contribution towards your legal costs, and/or you may be required to provide your property as security for payment of these legal costs to Legal Aid Queensland. For a copy of the guidelines, put your email in below and we’ll send you the latest copy

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If your matter is urgent, please call us on (07) 5408 4470