Separate smarter: Overview

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Separation is the ending of an intimate partner relationship, including the end of a marriage or de facto relationship. It is often a difficult time; it can be stressful, and you may feel unsure about what to do next.

If you have separated recently, you and your former partner will need to make some immediate decisions about practical issues concerning your children and/or your assets like property and debts. Some of the things you might need to consider are:

  • where your children live and who will take care of them
  • how you and your former partner will support yourselves and your children
  • what, how and when you will tell the children, other family members and friends
  • who will pay outstanding bills or debts
  • who will stay in the house
  • how will the rent or mortgage be paid
  • what will happen to any joint bank, building society or credit union accounts, and
  • what will happen to the house, car, furniture and other property.

You may not be able to agree on all these things at the time of separation, but if it is safe to do so, it can greatly help you and your family if you try to reach a temporary agreement.

You can contact the Family Relationship Advice Line, a Family Relationship Centre, or other community-based services for help to reach an agreement.

Family Relationship Advice Line

1800 050 321

You can separate smarter

Where it is safe to do so, you can take ownership of your dispute. Whether you agree, partially agree or don't agree at all. You can mediate at any stage, as many times as you need. It is time we started thinking differently about family law disputes.

Most people don't need to come to court to make arrangements for their children or dividing property and finances after separation.

While you do need to apply to the Court for a Divorce order (to end your marriage), there is no need for parenting and/or financial arrangements to be decided by a court - unless it is not safe to make your own agreement, or after making a genuine attempt to resolve your dispute, you still cannot agree.

Going to court is expensive, time consuming and stressful, and you may not get the result you want.

When it is safe - there is a better way to separate.

An AUSLAN version of this video is also available.

Getting help to resolve your dispute

Court proceedings should be a last resort. The Court expects people to make genuine attempts to engage in dispute resolution, to avoid the time, cost and stress associated with litigation.

Dispute resolution refers to a range of services designed to help you resolve disputes arising from separation or divorce and improve your relationship with the other party/s. There is an expectation that you will attempt to resolve your dispute by compromise, discussion and dispute resolution, if it is safe to do so. Even if you do start court proceedings, in most cases, you must demonstrate that you have taken genuine steps to resolve the dispute.

For more information about options and assistance to resolve your dispute, see Get help - Dispute Resolution.

Looking after yourself

Separation is a big change. It can be a difficult time for you, your children, and your former partner. Looking after yourself and recognising when you might need a bit of extra help and support is important. If you are feeling stressed, see the brochure Separation and stress.

For more information about help and support, see Get help – Support services.

Family violence and your safety

The Court places children, litigants and their safety at the heart of the process. For some families, it may be unsafe to resolve their disputes without the help of the Court process and court orders. Remember, there are people who can help you.

If you are experiencing family and domestic violence you can get help and support. See Get help – Family violence or visit the Family Violence Law Help website, which provides information about domestic and family violence and the law in Australia.

Family Violence Law Help

If you are in immediate danger call 000


Further reading

Pre-Action Procedures: What to do before you file your family law application

Are you thinking about filing a family law application in the Court? This checklist brochure takes you through the steps or ‘pre-action procedures’ you need to complete before you do so. These steps will ask you to try and resolve issues with the other party using Dispute Resolution, if it is safe to do so.