What do I need to know?
If the case was heard in Melbourne, you will need to know the case number for the divorce.
To acquire the case number you will need:
- the year of the proceedings, and
- married name of the couple
If the divorce case was heard in Ballarat, all you need to know is the surname of either husband or wife.
How do I search?
Locating Melbourne divorce records (1861-1891) is a two step search. First you will need to locate a divorce case file close file Definition An accumulation of documents relating to the same subject, person, activity or transaction that are kept together. Documents in a file are usually, but not always, fastened together. Files are usually arranged in an identifiable sequence (e.g. numerical or alphabetical). number using the name index close index Definition Often an alphabetised or other sequential list that refers to records arranged in a different, less accessible sequence. Often one index will point you to a number you may need to access an item in a related set of records. (see also nominal index, numerical index and subject index). in step 1, filter by year on the search result pages, then use the case file number only to search for relevant case files in step 2.
Locating Melbourne divorce records (1891-1941) is also a two step search. First you will need to locate a divorce case file number using the name index in step 1, then use the case file number and the year to search for relevant case files in step 2.
About these records
A divorce case file is a record of the evidence prepared for the Supreme Court hearing of the case.
The Supreme Court heard divorce cases in Victoria until 1975 (divorce cases are now heard by the Family Court of Australia).
Divorce proceedings commenced when the husband or wife (the petitioner) or their legal representative (known as a proctor) lodged a petition for divorce at the Prothonotary’s Office of the Supreme Court.
Records of divorce cases held up until the end of 1940 are available at PROV. For more recent records contact the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Who created these records?
Apart from the earliest cases, all these records were created by the Supreme Court of Victoria (VA 2549).
What are in these records?
The case file will contain a number of documents that might include:
- the petition stating the grievance
- affidavits (or supporting statements) by the petitioner
- a formal answer by the respondent and any co-respondents (in cases of adultery, both parties to the adultery were summoned)
- further affidavits in support of that answer
- orders by the court directing who is to pay for the costs of the case
- a praecipe, which is an order to the clerks of the Court to produce a writ containing the formal decree made by the justice. The praecipe will often have a summary of the decision.
Note that not all cases were heard. Sometimes they were withdrawn before the hearing or otherwise settled.
Tip! The indexes include more than one year, so you may have to download a year range rather than an exact year.
Tip! The digital versions appear first in the results page.