Learn about separating in Australia including some important information about timelines and options for support.
Looking after yourself
Separating can be an emotional time, especially if separating isn’t what you want. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time. There are different types of help and support available including legal help, counselling or just having someone to talk to.
Separating means the end of a marriage or a de facto relationship, this includes registered relationships. When you separate you need to think about practical matters like arrangements for children and dividing your money and property.
It is legally possible to be separated from your partner but still live under one roof. Read more about separating under one roof below.
Separating under one roof
You can separate from your partner but still live in the same house. This can be for a few days, weeks, months or even years after separation.
To demonstrate that you are genuinely separated you usually need to be able to show that you no longer share the usual activities of a relationship, such as sleeping together in the same bed, shopping and eating together, entertaining friends, and socialising as a couple.
If you are not sure if you are genuinely separated you can find legal help about separating under one roof from the free Legal Help Line in your state or territory.
Date of separation
This might be the date you or your partner moved out, the date you told your friends and family you had broken up or any other date you and your partner agree that the relationship had broken down.
Getting a divorce
Divorce is a different process to separating. Divorce is the legal end of a marriage.
Only a Family Court can issue a divorce order. The court will only issue a divorce order when:
a marriage has broken down and there is no reasonable likelihood that the couple will get back together (this is evidenced by the couple being separated for at least 12 months).
Australian citizenship or residency requirements have been met.
Important: You can’t use amica to get a divorce. If you want a divorce, you need to go to the Family Courts. You can find legal help about divorce from the free Legal Help Line in your state or territory.
Important Family Court time limits to know about if you are already divorced
You can divide your money and property and make parenting arrangements before getting a divorce.
But if you are already divorced, and you can’t agree between yourselves about how to divide your money and property, there is an important time limit that you should know about if you think you will need to apply to the Family Courts for orders about dividing your money and property.
Divorced couples have 1 year from the date that they finalised their divorce, to apply to the Family Courts for money and property orders. Divorce orders become finalised automatically 1 month and 1 day after the order is made.
If you do not apply within 1 year, you must get permission from the court to make an application. Permission is only granted in limited circumstances.
It is possible to legally change your name or your children’s names after separating. But you cannot use amica to help you to change names.
You can find legal help about changing names from the free Legal Help Line in your state or territory.
Family dispute resolution
Most separating couples using amica don’t need to use Family Dispute Resolution because they are able to make their own arrangements and agreements with amica. Using amica is not the same as participating in Family Dispute Resolution.
During Family Dispute Resolution, couples discuss issues and consider different options, while being encouraged to focus on the needs of their children.
Family Dispute Resolution uses a neutral and accredited Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.
A number of organisations provide Family Dispute Resolution services. Some of them offer it for free or while others charge fees.
Before separating couples can apply to the Family Courts for parenting orders, they are required to participate in Family Dispute Resolution. There are some exceptions to this requirement. For example, where there is domestic or family violence in the relationship, or where the orders being sought are consent orders.