Attwood Marshall Lawyers Family Law Senior Associate, Hayley Condon recently joined Robyn Hyland for Law Talks on Radio 4CRB to talk about divorce and why December and January are busy months for family lawyers in Queensland with many couples calling it quits after the holiday season.
Gold Coast is the divorce ‘capital’
Queensland has the highest divorce rate in Australia with the statistics suggesting Queenslanders have the highest crude divorce rate, and the state has held that title for many years!
In addition, the Gold Coast has topped the list as the divorce capital making up one-third of the top 15 south-east locations for divorcees across the state.
In 2021, the crude divorce rate in Queensland averaged 2.6 per 1,000 people.
There were 56,244 divorces granted in Australia, with 13,475 of divorces being attributed to Queenslanders. This number is roughly 14 per cent higher than what was recorded in 2020. The average age most people are applying for a divorce is between 40-49 years old.
Unfortunately, as we start a new year and farewell the festive season, we can expect to see a spike in separations and divorces.
We often see trends like this where couples leave it until the new year to separate once the Christmas holidays are over and everyone is back to their usual routine of work and school.
The main reasons many couples wait till the new year to call it quits include:
- The Christmas holiday season is stressful enough. For anyone who has been waiting to make the tough decision to go their separate ways, waiting a month or so until the holiday season is over is something many people choose to do.
- The expense of separating. Often the change in the dynamic of family finances and the cost that people incur consulting solicitors is not something people want to embark upon at Christmas time.
- For those with children, or even grandchildren, they do not want to affect the joy of their Christmas holidays. Children tend to be the primary reason a separation is delayed. This even includes if your children are “adults”. Knowing that families are coming together at Christmas time, for some people it may be the first time in a while they have had their adult children at home, they don’t want to take away that joy and many people tend to put their differences aside temporarily to be able to spend time together as a family.
Why Queenslanders call it quits more than any other state or territory
Interestingly there has historically been correlation between significant events or crises and divorce rates.
When you look at divorce rates historically, including the 1930’s great depression, World War I and World War II, the divorce rates were higher during these periods, returning to lower levels when the world was not experiencing the devastation of war or recession.
The impact of COVID was no different. The pandemic added further pressure to many relationships that were already strained.
The first wave of separations and divorces occurred immediately after the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. For those that made it through the first round of lockdowns, subsequent lockdowns simply may have been too tough, and there were many couples who decided as soon as the world returned to normal, that they wanted to go their separate ways. We are still seeing the aftermath of those lockdowns, as people must be separated for at least 12 months before they can apply for divorce, which means couples that may have separated late in 2021 are yet to be counted in the divorce statistics. It will be interesting to see how 2022-2023 statistics compare to previous years!
Although Queensland may have fared better than other states when it came to COVID restrictions, it is important to keep in mind the significant number of people who migrated to the state during the pandemic.
Interstate migration to Queensland during June 2020 to June 2021 saw more than 30,000 people move from other states.
If a couple’s relationship was strained as a result of lockdowns in another state prior to moving to Queensland, only to call it quits after relocating, their divorce would be added to Queensland’s tally.
However, the issues run deeper than just COVID-19 alone. There are many factors that can contribute to relationships being put under pressure, including:
- Mental health issues: 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in any given year.
- Financial factors and the rising cost of living: Money is one of the biggest issues many couples argue about. With financial pressures hitting breaking point due to the rising cost of living and interest rate hikes, it is no surprise financial factors will contribute to the divorce rate.
- Employment circumstances: These can go hand-in-hand with financial factors, particularly if a family is living off a single income. Career decisions can have a significant impact on the family unit and can cause a relationship to break down.
- Domestic and family violence: There are more people realising that they are involved in a domestic violence relationship and they are taking the steps to get out. Domestic violence complaints continue to increase alongside the divorce rates.
The divorce process
It is important to draw a distinction between “divorce”, which is simply the dissolution of a marriage, and the other side of separation, which includes the resolution of a property settlement or parenting arrangements for children.
To be eligible to apply for a divorce, a couple must have been separated for at least 12 months and at least one party must have formed the view that there is no likelihood of reconciliation in the future.
If a couple has been married for less than two years, they will need to take additional steps to ensure their divorce application is able to proceed.
An Application for Divorce is filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
Couples seeking a divorce must satisfy the following eligibility criteria:
- Be an Australian citizen; or
- Ordinarily live in Australia and have done so for at least 12 months before the filing of the divorce application; or
- Live in Australia and regard Australia as their permanent home.
Australia adopts a “no fault” divorce policy, which means the only requirement before filing the application is that the spouses have been separated for at least 12 months before filing their application. It does not matter who was at fault for the relationship breaking down.
Other issues during separation
Anyone who is considering separating should obtain legal advice at an early stage in the process. There are many issues that arise when a couple separates.
The main considerations include:
- How property will be divided
- Who will move out of the family home
- Care arrangements for children and child support
- Spousal maintenance
- Assistance for anyone who is facing domestic and family violence issues.
Then there are other issues that should be addressed immediately following separation such as reviewing your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney, or Appointment of Enduring Guardian documents. For most couples who have these documents drafted during their relationship, they often appoint their spouse as their executor and beneficiary in their Will, or as their Attorney/Guardian in an Enduring Power of Attorney or Appointment of Enduring Guardian document.
As you can imagine, when you have separated from your spouse, unless you have a very good relationship with them post separation and your separation is amicable, most people normally do not want their estranged spouse making important financial, health and personal decisions in their life if something unexpected happens during the separation process. It is imperative that you review and update these documents as soon as possible after a separation!
An experienced family lawyer can help guide you through the difficult process of separation and ensure that each of these matters are dealt with properly along the way.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers –supporting families through separation, divorce, and disputes
When a relationship ends, it is important to get advice from a reputable family lawyer who can help you understand how to protect your interests and formalise your divorce, property settlement, and parenting arrangements as quickly as possible.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers have a dedicated team of family lawyers who practice exclusively in this complex area of law. Our lawyers can help with negotiating property settlements, divorce applications, binding financial agreements, parenting arrangements, child custody disputes and spousal maintenance.
To discuss your family law needs, contact our Family Law Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email email@example.com or book an appointment immediately online with one of our family lawyers.