The best divorce lawyers in Canberra

Di Simpson from DDCS Lawyers

Di Simpson, family lawyer and partner at DDCS Lawyers. Photo: Region Media.

For whatever reason it appears the honeymoon period is over. If you are one of the many thousands of couples proceeding with divorce you will know it is a challenging time. The divorce process is highly personal; and the outcome may significantly impact your life.

Indeed, few of us have any prior experience with the legal ins and outs surrounding divorce. It is known for being a delicate process in which the emotional and financial stakes are high. Add to this, subsequent decisions around parenting, property, and finances; and one may suddenly realise the need for professional counsel. Thankfully, Canberra’s divorce lawyers are family law experts ready to offer their services as needed.

Bet it walking you through the process, understanding alternatives, and filing of documents they are there to help. Furthermore, their expertise in negotiation may prove invaluable throughout the settlement process. Some believe that finding the right divorce lawyer can even help to expedite the process and keep costs low.

But if you don’t know what to look for in a divorce lawyer, how do you know you’re investing all your money, hopes and dreams in the right one? Choosing a divorce lawyer is an important decision, however if you proceed with care, you may just find the help you need. So where to find the best in Canberra? Read on below.

What makes a great divorce lawyer?

The right divorce lawyer can help fast track your separation and take the stress out of what is already a challenging experience. Moreover, great divorce lawyers understand your position, listen and advise well, whilst keeping your best interests at heart. Here are some things to keep in mind as you evaluate potential candidates:

  • Qualified & experienced. Law is an incredibly complex field, requiring years of tertiary study. Following a degree, all lawyers are required to gain formal admission to the profession by the Supreme Court of the ACT. Additionally, they require a practising certificate as issued by the Law Society. To support these qualifications, look for experience. Good divorce lawyers have years of experience and the case history to prove it. Moreover, the best divorce lawyers are fluent in a range of legal areas that straddle divorce such as property, trust, and family law. Finally, consider their skill set, things like communication, negotiation, and problem solving are all important.
  • Family law specialist. Finding a lawyer with experience in all areas of family law – not just divorce – is incredibly important. Why? Because divorce proceedings often work in tandem with family law matters. Often a divorce can present other family law issues such as parenting and child support matters, property settlements, and spousal maintenance. Moreover, the divorce process may also require a range of ancillary services. Things like financial experts, forensic appraisers, parenting coordinators, and counsellors may each have a valuable role to play. Consider whether any would be relevant to your case and assess your lawyers’ access to these resources.
  • Personally compatible. As human nature states we often surround ourselves with likeminded people that we relate to – and feel comfortable with. Choosing a divorce lawyer is no different. The right lawyer for you is someone you trust and feel at ease with. Importantly, they support your overarching philosophy on divorce and operate in a style that is compatible to you.
  • Compassionate. For many people, the divorce process is a painful and emotionally charged time. This makes finding a divorce lawyer who genuinely hears and understands you ever more important. The best divorce lawyers are emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and are deeply compassionate. They are sensitive to the needs of both parents and exhaust all options to minimise negative impacts on children. Therefore, look for a family lawyer that you connect with. One that understands your position and is willing to support it.
  • Reputable. Reputable lawyers are known for being leaders in their field, ensuring you will receive considered and well thought out advice. The best divorce lawyers often come recommended. Speak to colleagues, friends and family, other lawyers, and soon you will have a list of the most reputable options in Canberra. Verify these recommendations with some research. And, even if you have no intention of heading to trial, review each lawyer’s trial record. Their history of success in court is a great track record and a good indicator of their success in negotiation.

The best divorce lawyers in Canberra

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Baker Deane & Nutt

Baker Deane & Nutt

Baker Deane & Nutt (BDN) is a full-service law firm providing expert advice with a personal touch, including with family relationships, divorce and custody. Reliable, trusted and experienced, the firm has been supporting clients for more than 150 years.

BDN lawyers understand that separation and divorce is difficult and guide clients through this complex, challenging, and sensitive time with care. Clear and close lines of communication reassure clients every step of the way.

Services include property settlements, parenting arrangements, consent orders, division of superannuation, domestic violence and same-sex relationships. Mitigation of financial risks and reduction of stress is the aim for every client from the outset. Whether using collaborative law or the Family Court, BDN provides expert advice, guidance, and representation through tailor-made legal services.

Ben Day wrote on Google, “Absolutely hand’s down the best lawyers in the business. Compassion, empathy and understanding. Professionals to the highest degree.”

Level 1, 1 Farrel Place
Canberra City ACT 2601
DDCS Lawyers

DDCS Lawyers

DDCS Lawyers are Canberra’s leading relationship lawyers, specialising in family law, including divorce, as well as wills and estate planning. With 11 members on the team and an award-winning reputation, DDCS Lawyers offer some of the best legal advice and representation in the Canberra region. The firm’s founding partners consistently rank as leading family lawyers.

The firm’s dynamic team of lawyers, with a breadth of experience and diverse backgrounds, has helped thousands of clients, whether starting or ending a relationship, needing advice for parenting agreements, or needing to protect assets and loved ones with estate planning.

DDCS knows what matters most. The team understands the emotional and financial stress of divorce and uses a unique blend of confidence, skill and compassion to guide clients. DDCS also recognises that families and couples come in many shapes and sizes, each with their own unique challenges. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution with divorce. DDCS has the experience and expertise required to navigate the unexpected and reach optimal results with minimal disruption.

As satisfied client Cedar Hernandez wrote on Google, “Di Simpson and her team were truly amazing. She articulates everything that is most important and fought for my best interests. I felt fully supported and found the Family Law process empowering even through the stress and emotional turmoil. I was involved in the process which was important to me. Di listened to me and understood the big picture I wanted her to understand. I felt validated. The expense was worth it.”

18 Kendall Lane
Canberra CIty ACT 2601
Parker Coles Curtis

Parker Coles Curtis

Parker Coles Curtis is a boutique family law firm led by specialist family lawyers. The firm’s talented and devoted team supports clients before, during and after a break-up.

Combining expertise with extensive legal experience, lawyers provide care, choice and practical solutions for changing relationships or family law problems. The team provides advice to and represents clients in challenging situations like separation, divorce, parenting and custody disputes, family violence, domestic violence, property settlement, child support, spouse maintenance and wills and estate matters. An accredited mediator is available.

Parker Coles Curtis tailors options to suit clients needs. With their Australian-first ‘Loungeroom Lawyer’ service, clients can access affordable and accurate legal advice when it best suits. Loungeroom Lawyers makes it easy to seek legal advice. Clients don’t visit stuffy corporate law offices, book and pay for babysitters or take time off work. Instead, Loungeroom Lawyers visit clients in their homes or through video-consult, at a fixed fee.

Parker Coles Curtis helps clients regain control and get their life back. The firm works with culturally and linguistically diverse families and LGBTIQ+ families. Contact Parker Coles Curtis for a free 15-minute chat.

As Ben mentions, “Everyone is top notch with outstanding law knowledge, professional knowledge, and a witty human touch. I am in the perfect hands for my rather complex family matters. On top of it all Debra is very well connect and can bring in other experts, e.g. migration, to marry different law matters. Overall I really enjoy working with everyone at Parker Coles Curtis and feel I invested in the right top notch people. You are at the right address here if you are looking for the best in the game with outstanding standards and professionalism.”

Level 9, 1 Hobart Place
Canberra ACT 2601
Snedden Hall & Gallop

Snedden Hall & Gallop

Snedden Hall & Gallop has provided legal services in the Canberra region for 60 years. The family law team, backed by extensive experience and expertise, supports clients to resolve their family law matters as swiftly and amicably as possible. Clients are guaranteed considered advice and strong representation, including on property (such as the division of assets and liabilities following separation), parenting disputes and family violence or protection order matters.

Most family law matters can be resolved without litigation because Snedden Hall & Gallop’s family lawyers focus on resolving disputes through alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation and negotiation.

Snedden Hall & Gallop also offers law advice relating to superannuation; business and employment law; personal injury; wills, estates and elder law; and criminal law.

As Mary Pezzella wrote on Google, “I would like to publicly congratulate the team at Snedden Hall & Gallop for their ongoing professionalism and thorough knowledge of current legal matters.”

43-49 Geils Court
Deakin ACT 2600

Robinson & McGuinness Family Law

Robinson & McGuinness Family Law is a boutique firm that supports clients with family law matters, including divorce, parenting, property, child support, financial agreements, spousal maintenance, adoption, superannuation splitting, family violence and more. The firm understands that every family is different which means solutions must be tailored to individual client needs.

As Angela Jones wrote on Google, “I highly recommend Robinson and McGuinness. They are professional, friendly, supportive and provide excellent service and results.”

For the best law firms in the region have a read of our article on the best law firms in Canberra. Your situation may also require the services of our best chartered accountants, wills and estates lawyers, along with the best psychologists and child psychologists.

If you’re seeking a less-expensive alternative to going through the court system or working with a divorce lawyer, you might like our article on the best mediation and conflict resolution services in Canberra. And, for those considering reconciliation perhaps our article on the best marriage counsellors may be of interest.

Your experience with divorce lawyers in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the divorce lawyers listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I apply for a divorce?
To apply for a divorce separating couples must demonstrate that their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’ with no likelihood of resuming and that they have been separated for 12 months or more. Moreover, couples need to be Australian residents or citizens, or regard Australia as their permanent home spending at least 12 months residing in the country before lodging the application. Any couples married overseas can also apply for a divorce in Australia provided the meet these criteria. Couples married less than two years must either attend counselling with a family counsellor and file a counselling certificate or obtain permission from the court to apply for a divorce without one. Finally, it is worth noting that a divorce application can be applied for by one person alone, or jointly.
How do divorce lawyers charge for their services?
This varies from firm to firm. A good rule of thumb is that the more legal input required, and the more time involved, and the higher the expense. Some law firms may offer a fixed fee structure, some offer a no win no fee structure, while others work to an hourly rate. Hourly rates typically range from $200 per hour for a junior lawyer to upwards of $600 per hour for a senior partner or principal. Additional charges may also apply for things like extra meetings or court attendances. Always review the payment structure for your divorce lawyer to understand how they charge, and any additional billable components therein.
Do I have to be divorced to finalise parenting or property arrangements?
No. The granting of a divorce denotes the legal ending of a marriage; however, it does not determine arrangements for parenting, maintenance, or property. If you want to apply to the Court for orders in relation to property, however, you need to do this at the latest within 12 months of your divorce becoming final. These arrangements must be addressed separately and can commence at any stage. For assistance here you may wish to speak to an experienced family lawyer to understand your rights and obligations in relation to property and parenting matters.
How is a divorce settlement worked out?
Typically, a divorce settlement includes the review of a couple’s net property pool; their contributions including financial, non-financial, homemaking or parenting; along with anticipated future needs. From this review, the settlement process results in a percentage division of property between spouses. It is worth nothing that time limits for filing property settlement proceedings currently apply; being 12 months from the date of divorce for married couples or 2 years from separation of de facto couples. Calculating the settlement percentage is an incredibly complex process, and professional counsel from an accredited family or divorce lawyer can be helpful.
Are there any alternatives to the Family Law Court system?
Yes, there are alternatives to traditional litigation. One option is mediation; where separating couples effectively determine their own arrangements either independently or assisted by a trained neutral third party such as an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Another option to consider is a collaborative divorce. Like mediation, a collaborative pathway is designed for parties who wish to avoid litigation. Under this option, separating couples and their respective lawyers enter a written agreement whereby parties will not litigate or threaten to litigate during the divorce process. Additionally, lawyers will not advise clients to threaten litigation. For further information see

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150 Responses to The best divorce lawyers in Canberra
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Monica Bryant-Norved Monica Bryant-Norved 12:48 pm 03 Jul 17

Avoid legal aid. Totally avoid Relationships Australia. Alliance Legal are excellent and will keep your costs low. I have tried a number of Canberra lawyers – the first two cost me thousands with no direct result and yes lawyers often forget to lodge paperwork – its called negligence – they should be reported to the ACT Law Society. Two years and virtually no contact with my kids aged 12 and 10. Parental alienation is child abuse. I was the breadwinner – my ex husband brainwashed my kids while I was busy supporting the family for a decade. The Family Law system is totally broken – even spending thousands of dollars – I may lose contact with my kids. I am not a criminal. I an tertiary educated. Had a top secret security clearance – I lost everything when I lost my kids. Good luck – I hope you get some good results. Our story is far too common. BTW – everyone stop responding to needhelp – massive personality disorder there and just a troll.

Southmouth Southmouth 5:03 pm 10 Sep 15 Try very hard to stay out of court and don’t try getting more than 50/50 shared care of kids. Or budget 50k, and end up with the same outcome. If you try and represent yourself against a lawyer, you will lose

MarkE MarkE 3:09 pm 10 Sep 15

The average cost of a defended Family Court matter is now over $50,000 per side. My father was a Family Court Judge for 28 years. He told me 3 things of interest here:

1. The legal system if run solely for the convenience of the legal profession.
2. Any similarity between justice and the law is purely coincidence.
3. I asked him how to hire a lawyer without getting ripped off, and he told me: “I don’t know.”

My advice is represent yourself.

MERC600 MERC600 2:44 pm 10 Sep 15

Sorry but

First divorce lawyer: “You’re an unmitigated liar.”
Second divorce lawyer: “You’re a lowdown cheat.”
Judge: “Now that the lawyers have identified themselves, let us proceed.”

Why should divorce lawyers be buried 100 feet deep? Because deep down, they’re really good people.

Masquara Masquara 1:09 pm 10 Sep 15

If you aren’t VERY rich, better to seek an amicable settlement. If you’re experiencing revenge angst, get counselling and settle that before you engage a lawyer. You risk an outcome where you have to pay a lawyer for a settlement that doesn’t assuage any pain or relieve any feelings that the settlement has been unjust. If you have kids and only one house between you and your partner, don’t expect to get your equity out of the house until the kids have finished uni.

rubbercup rubbercup 11:17 am 10 Sep 15

capn_pugwash said :

my SIL had a good experience with Olivia Gesini. She’s known as the best in town apparently

Hi Guys,

I found this thread when i was looking for the best family lawyer in town and tried to get in touch with Olivia Gesini as a result. I contacted the law firm Farrar Gesini Dunn ( and was told she was unavailable, but i was able to see Kasey Fox and I couldn’t be happier. Highly recommended!!

greenman greenman 3:20 pm 10 Apr 15

After a long and drawn out divorce – my ex and I are amicable – and wish to locate a property in the Canberra region – where we live with our kids – but not with eachother. for example top floor/bottom floor – separate living – even an A and B type set up. I know a couple of split families who’ve tried this in Melbourne and it seems to work well. Does anyone know of any such properties here in Canberra ? Rent or Buy ? Any info is appreciated…



I can help you there….I have just collated a divorce SURVIVAL KIT. ($120 free delivery anywhere in Australia)…VITAL information that everyone needs when going through a divorce. It also has a copy of my book in it. see website for more details or contact me;

Monomyth Monomyth 4:27 pm 22 Jan 13

obrijo said :

Woops correction: Women’s Legal Service is at Havelock House.

Ah, wondered why my Google-fu was rusty, thanks 🙂

Monomyth Monomyth 4:26 pm 22 Jan 13

eyeLikeCarrots said :

Sooooooooooo, you’ll be back on the market soon ?

Hahaha you crack me up 🙂 Thank you 🙂

obrijo obrijo 3:19 pm 22 Jan 13

Woops correction: Women’s Legal Service is at Havelock House.

eyeLikeCarrots eyeLikeCarrots 2:13 pm 22 Jan 13

Sooooooooooo, you’ll be back on the market soon ?

Monomyth Monomyth 11:32 am 22 Jan 13

Thanks Starrie, I was afraid it would have to be more complicated than that, glad to hear it’s not!

Thanks for the tip obrijo, i’ll check them out – might help to have something in my back pocket.

Starrie Starrie 11:12 am 22 Jan 13

Forms are here:

Fill them out, sign them in front of a lawyer or JoP, send them to your ex to sign also in front of a lawyer or JoP, lodge them online, pay the fee and the courts will do the rest for you. You don’t even need to turn up.

obrijo obrijo 11:01 am 22 Jan 13

Try the Women’s Legal Service at Gorman House (pro bono duty solicitors at restricted times) or the duty solicitor at the Family Court can help. Legal aid is probably inaccessible to most people due to its income restrictions.

gregz gregz 11:32 pm 19 Aug 12

Myself: DINK (dual income, no kids) but retired senior social worker; “uncle” real” & de-facto to many distressed children. It’s a cultural thing. Sorry – but I’m not white, even though I’m 5th generation Aussie born Asian (i.e. not an Abrahamite – Jew, Xt’n, etc).
Unknown to most single mothers (most cultures), a GOOD father-figure & father-bonding is more important than any isolated, ignorant dictator. There are formally organized groups for the children of divorcing & divorced children. Locate them, with or without the participation of the isolated ‘carer’. Also normally children at about age 9 can use the internet. Soon he will ‘meet’ you on his face-book pages, without his guardian’s knowledge, at the school, local or internet-cafe computer.
Give him a mobile phone/ plan with SMS on it. If you can afford SMS via a low-cost phone plan will work. There are many smartphones (second-hand in his case; kids damage/ lose them easily). If you get a smartphone with add-ons that tell you his geographical address when he phones-SMS, it maybe more comfortable for both. Smartphones (not Apple) often take memory cards. Children like the many free games, music, etc that can be loaded onto these memory cards.
One ‘comfort’: each re-marriage means that later re-marriages also happen often & easily.
In my retirement years, I watch the solo-workers (lawyers, counsellors, medicos, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc …) who ignore that we humans are group creatures, not solo, culture-independent cacti. “They” are cactus’s, and these isolates treat everyone around them as another cactus. That’s why I enjoy the bad remedies devised by Channel’s 10 “Dr Pil”, middays during the week.

LSWCHP LSWCHP 9:17 pm 19 Aug 12

Flossie said :

What a terrible situation.
I just wanted to mention that if the stress is getting to you, please remember that lifeline is there 24/7. They won’t tell you what to do, but they will listen and support.
Their number is 131114.
Sometimes the wee small hours are the hardest.
Good luck

I’ll second that. I spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling at 3 in the morning wondering WTF I was going to do, how I could maintain contact with my kids, how I’d cope financially etc.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Masquara Masquara 8:53 pm 19 Aug 12

Just a recent tale to give you hope, and demonstrate that the Lone Fathers can be a bit pessimistic: Early in 2011 a mother I know took her two kids to Queensland from western NSW, claiming domestic violence (very unlikely), and without the father’s permission. He had no job, but was a caring parent and the two kids are attached to him. She is the breadwinner. His family were amazed when, after nearly six whole months in Queensland with the mum, and the kids “settled” in a new school, and living near the mum’s particular immigrant community, the court found in the dad’s favour and told the mum that if she wanted to be around her kids she had to return and stay in ******* (country town) even though it was a place where she would be unlikely to find a job. Her mistake was racking off with the kids, and assuming that it would be a “fait accompli” that the kids were settled in their new home. Everyone who knew the couple were delighted and amazed by the outcome – it was totally unexpected, as everyone thought “providing” is the main thing. Justice providing recognised the strong emotional bond with the dad, and although he is pretty piecemeal financially, he doesn’t drink or do drugs, and manages pretty well on their small income. The kids have been back with dad for several months now, settled back in school. The mum has to either live in ******* or travel down from Queensland every couple of weeks to see them. I suspect the Beak was pretty pissed off about the domestic violence story – said father has NO history of violence in ANY context, and it did seem like a tall tale.

Flossie Flossie 8:09 pm 19 Aug 12

What a terrible situation.
I just wanted to mention that if the stress is getting to you, please remember that lifeline is there 24/7. They won’t tell you what to do, but they will listen and support.
Their number is 131114.
Sometimes the wee small hours are the hardest.
Good luck

Masquara Masquara 6:54 pm 19 Aug 12

YeahBuddy said :

Masquara said :

Most importantly, GET TO LEGAL AID NOW so they are representing you and not your partner! They can’t represent both sides in a dispute, and once your ex is their client, that cuts you out. or maybe the ACT legal aid website can help too.

Urban Legend – Legal Aid can and do fund both sides in Family Court matters

They can FUND two parties but they cannot REPRESENT two parties. Get it right willya!

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