What do I need to know?

PROV holds records only for divorce hearings in Melbourne and Ballarat.

To search, you need to know the surname of either the husband or wife.


How do I search?

Locating Melbourne divorce records (1861-1938) is a two step search. First you will need to locate a divorce case file number using the name index in step 1, filter by year on the search result pages, then once you have  found the name use the  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 to search for relevant case files in step 2. 

For records from 1938 to 1942 order the 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). first (view in the reading room) identify the case number, and type it in below. 

Type a surname into the search box for Ballarat records.

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 1942 are available at PROV. For more recent records, or records of hearings in locations other than Melbourne and Ballarat, 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).

Next Steps

Once you have found records of interest to you, view them online or order close order Definition Physical records can be ordered for viewing in PROV’s reading rooms.  When a user orders a record, it is reserved solely for their use. them for viewing in our Reading Room.

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.