Firstly, congratulations! Your marriage failed! The thing our queer community in Australia fought so hard for is something you’ve failed to execute! Hooray! Bet you feel shit, yeah? Yeah. Whether you’re the leaver or the leavee, this process sucks. It’s worse than just a relationship break up because it’s MARRIAGE. And it FAILED.
Secondly, if you’re like me and you married an abusive arsehole of the same gender, you’re also going through the trauma of recovery! All the good times to be had!
Thirdly, you’re gonna have to wait one year and one day before you can apply for a divorce. This is so you can sort out whether there’s any chance of reconciliation, but again, if you’re like me, it’s just an opportunity to be manipulated, used and lied to by your narcissistic spouse for a whole ‘nother year because you’re an idiot who believed that they were just going through a crisis and the love you shared was real and worth fighting for.
You’re not an idiot. It happens to the best of us, and through this process you can finally learn that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it take responsibility for its terrible behaviour and get life-changing help before it abuses another horse.
Here’s what you need to do if you’re going through a same sex divorce in Australia.
- Take a breath. It’s shit, but it’s going to be okay. By the end of the process, you will feel better, even if you didn’t want the divorce in the first place.
- Get some therapy to help with the yuck feelings that are going to come up at various stages of the process. If you don’t deal with them feels, shit’s gonna get real.
- Your ex is gonna be a dick. You’re gonna be a dick. There’s going to be a lot of dicks happening, even in a lesbian divorce. Prepare yourself.
- Jump on to the Federal Circuit Court website here to find out how to apply for a divorce. Same sex couples can’t do it online yet, even though it’s been legal for over a year now, so I flung an email at the National Enquiry Centre and a lovely lady sent me back the printable pdf of the application.
- Okay, here’s the tricky bit, and it’s to do with fees and court appearances and all that. If both parties carry a Health Care Card or a Pensioner Card or any of that biz, you can submit a joint application and get a discount on the fee (about $300 down from the full fee of $1000). Both applicants have to sign the Affidavit and you don’t need to serve documents on the other party. Also, court attendance is not required if you file a joint application, but you can request an appearance if you want. I didn’t want, so I didn’t request. If only one of you has a concession card and you want the discount, then the card carrier has to submit a sole application. This means the applicant has to serve documents on the respondent, and if you have kids under 18, you have to go to court. You don’t have to go to court if there are no children.
- If you do not have combined assets or property, you don’t need a lawyer. Getting a divorce is expensive enough as it is, you don’t need the added cost of lawyer’s fees if it’s not necessary.
- You will need to get your application witnessed. I used the sergeant at my local police station. He was cool.
- Once the application and all its copies have been submitted, you will get a stamped copy back of your application with the date of the court hearing, even if you’re not attending court. I found this information helpful in preparing for the mental shitstorm that happened around that date.
- Once the court hearing is complete, your divorce will be finalised one month and one day from that date.
- Have a party. I did. It was very cathartic and you and your friends can yell “fuck you” to your absent ex as you smash a cake with their face on it.
I’m going to be honest, the entire process was brutal. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my community down. My ideals and principles regarding marriage were shattered. I learned that there is very little support for same sex couples going through divorce, despite the amount of campaigning we did for marriage equality. Even though it is now legal, I felt that what I was going through wasn’t taken very seriously. Maybe because we’re still not used to the legality of our relationships, maybe because people didn’t realise I was actually legally married, maybe because not a lot of my friends in the community were married so they didn’t understand the gravity of it. I don’t know.
The nature of my relationship with my ex was confronting to a lot of people in the queer community, I realise now. People are uncomfortable with intimate partner violence anyway, and hearing about it makes the average person feel impotent, unable to offer support, unsure of what to say or do. A lot of people in the community still like my ex. She’s seen as a nice person, and because she’s a fairly well known performer, the community wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would comment on the manipulative and controlling things that she did during the divorce process and they would back away slowly, unwilling to be involved, which is their prerogative.
However, I had overwhelming support and love and respect too. So much so that there was a crowd of people at my divorce party, there to celebrate and commiserate with me, there to cheer as I continue to move on to a greater life as a gay (bisexual) divorcee, finally free of an awful lie of a relationship.
My ex wife’s ex was there. A woman who I had previously maligned in my attempt to remain loyal and supportive to my wife; a woman who graciously gave me her hand in support when I needed it most as she understood that we have a unique shared experience of surviving an abusive narcissist; a woman who I feel I need to apologise to and thank for the rest of my life was there, raising a glass with me. Solidarity in survival.
So, yes. My greatest advice for going through a divorce? Have your tribe with you. The people who have proven their loyalty and trustworthiness are the ones to have by your side. They will keep you sane and they will remind you that you are not a failure, that you do deserve real love. They will remind you just by being there that although this is an ending, it is also a very bright beginning.