How it works

What is The Separation Guide?

The Separation Guide is a resource hub for people going through, or considering, a separation or divorce.

Separation can be a maze.

We have a network of professionals who can help guide people through, including Mediators, Family Lawyers, financial advisors, psychologists and more.

The interactive, 5-minute Q&A is a good place to start.

It educates people about separation, suggests next steps and connects them with professionals in our network.

I’m ready to separate. Where do I begin?

This can be the trickiest part. Now is a time to really find out as much as you can about the separation process.

We’ve put together a set of resources to get you started:

You don’t have to do this alone. We’re here to answer your questions too. Call us on 1300 179 989 or email us.

What are the different ways to separate?

There are a few approaches to separation. Which is right for you will depend on your unique circumstances.

Our confidential 5-minute Q&A is designed to suggest a process that might work for you.

  1. Do It Yourself Agreement

This is where you reach a Separation Agreement by yourselves. This can suit couples with an amicable, equal relationship and a good understanding of ‘fairness’ in family law.

Initially this could appear lower cost and lower stress. But it also can increase the chances of an outcome not being fair and equitable. And a more powerful party may be able to get a better result.

If you are tempted to do this, you should take as much good advice and guidance first. Asking a Lawyer to review your draft Separation Agreement can be a cost-effective way to manage risk and ensure fairness.

  1. Guided Separation

This is where an amicable separating couple jointly engage a legally-qualified Mediator to guide them to a fair and equitable outcome.

The Mediator can explain the process, the range of possible fair and equitable outcomes and help you negotiate an agreement.

This approach will work best when there is:

  • Open and honest sharing of all financial information; and
  • A mutual desire to achieve a fair and equitable outcome.

If you are saying ‘we want to treat each other fairly but we don’t know what that is’, then this may be the best process.

  1. Independent Legal Advice

Sometimes people need to enter negotiations with their ex-partner through separate and independent legal advisors.

This tends to be necessary if there is less trust, less financial honesty and less amicability in the relationship.

Using a Family Lawyer doesn’t mean you’ll end up in Court. All of the professionals in our network have signed our Ethical Charter, committing to Court as a last resort.

  1. Decision by the Court

Courts are the places where separation matters that cannot be resolved by the parties are resolved by the law.

In a Courtroom, the Judge is in charge.

This may be exactly what your matter requires.

The reality however is that the time taken and the fees required to go to Court will be high relative to other non-litigated outcomes. That’s why it may be sensible to regard the Court as a last resort.

Which separation process is right for me?

That will depend on many factors, including:

  • How amicable you are with your ex
  • Whether there’s trust and financial honesty
  • How complex your finances are

The good news is, our confidential 5-minute Q&A is designed to suggest a process that might work for you, based on your specific circumstances.

What kind of separation experts can you connect me with?

We believe in a holistic approach to separation.

While the legal side of divorce and separation is often the focus, there are many other aspects to be considered: your emotional health, financial security and planning for your future.

The Separation Guide has brought together a network of experts, including:

  • Mediators
  • Family Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Financial advisors
  • Psychologists
  • Relationship counsellors
  • Property consultants
  • Immigration advisors

All of the experts in our network have signed our Ethical Charter, meaning they are committed to transparent fees and Court as a last resort.

Want to be connected to an expert? Contact us.

Find out more

> Who does what? Read our guide to who’s who in your separation crew.

How can I access a free consultation?

The legally-qualified Mediators, Family Lawyers and financial advisors in our network offer a free initial conversation to explain the process and your options.

Take our 5-minute Q&A to see which separation path might be right for you.

You’ll be able to access a free consultation with a legal professional and/or financial advisor at the end of this.

If you know which type of professional you want to speak with, get in touch with us and we can connect you.

Can I chat to separation experts remotely?

Absolutely.

From psychologists to accountants, all of the experts in our network are happy to communicate with you online, eg. through Zoom or video conferencing. Or simply by phone.

You can also choose to meet in person.

It’s up to you.

What short-term arrangements do I need to make?

It is important to ask yourself: How prepared am I to get through the day to day realities of this situation?

Think on these practical questions. Do I have:

  • A place for my children to live?
  • Carers for the kids if I/We are working?
  • A plan to tell the kids what is happening?
  • A way of sharing what is happening with family members and friends
  • Capacity for paying outstanding bills or debts
  • Plans for where I will live?
  • An idea of what will happen to any joint bank, building society or credit union accounts
  • An idea of what will happen to the house, car, furniture and other property all of the property and income both parties have brought into the relationship?
Is there a separation checklist I can use?

Yes.

Our Separation & divorce checklist (Pdf) walks through 15 things to put on your to do list.

If you need to be connected with an expert to help you with any of these tasks — from mapping your finances to drafting a parenting plan — get in touch.

What is Guided Separation?

Guided Separation is a term created by us here at The Separation Guide.

This is where a legally-qualified Mediator helps guide a separating couple to a fair and equitable outcome. The agreement is then finalised by independent lawyers who facilitate the legal instruments (Consent Orders for parenting and property, plus conveyancing).

All of the Mediator’s in our network hold qualifications as a Lawyer, a Mediator and a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, known as an FDRP. The Guided Separation approach will work best when there is:

  • Sufficient goodwill between ex-partners
  • Open and honest sharing of all financial information
  • A mutual desire to achieve a fair and equitable outcome

You can find out more in our blog post – What is a Guided Separation?

Finance

What assets will be divided in a separation?

Assets can refer to any item of significant value owned in the relationship.

The pool of assets will be divided between you and your partner and can include:

  • Property
  • Investments
  • Superannuation

Any liabilities of the relationship will also need to be factored in. For example:

  • Car loans
  • Student loans
Find out more

> Our Pool of Assets Calculator helps you identify assets and liabilities that need to be considered in your separation.

How can I calculate our pool of assets?

Use our Pool of Assets Calculator to capture any assets, superannuation and liabilities owned by you and your partner.

At the end, you can divide the balance with a number of ratios (for example 40/60) to see what different asset splits might mean for you and your partner. Note this is an indicative estimate only and is not legal advice.

What this split would actually be is the key question – that’s why finding out what is fair and equitable in your specific circumstances is so important.

How will we divide our assets and liabilities?

While many people believe assets will be divided with a 50/50 split, the focus in family law is on a fair and equitable outcome — and that’s different for every couple and rarely 50/50.

That’s why finding out what is fair and equitable in your specific circumstances is so important.

Find out more

> Watch our video: Is a 50/50 split fair?

How much does it cost to separate in Australia?

The answer is, it depends on the kind of separation you have.

If the separation is relatively amicable and the parties want to move on quickly then the costs will be lower.

But if there is bitterness, a protracted process and a need to go to Court then the costs will be higher.

As a rule, the longer and more complicated your separation is, the more it will cost. A drawn-out Court battle can cost upwards of $40,000 per person.

That’s why all of the members of The Separation Guide network believe that Court should be a last resort. We want to help guide you to the simplest process for you that can also give you a fair and equitable outcome.

The costs of separation depend on many factors, including:

  • how amicable you and your partner are
  • the process you and your partner choose
  • how complicated your pool of assets is
  • how much legal advice you need and who is giving you that legal advice
  • whether or not you end up in Court
    how long your Court case takes.
How can I pay for the costs of separation (eg. family lawyer fees)?

The costs of separation can quickly start to add up — legal fees, filing costs, extra rental payments. This can be a source of stress at an already stressful time.

How do other people pay? Typically, in a number of different ways:

  • by using their savings
  • borrowing from family and friends
  • selling an asset, like property or shares
  • using a finance model, for example a family law loan (our network member Plenti provides loans for family law matters)
  • a traditional personal loan with the bank
    seeking a Court-approved early release of funds from the asset pool

Each approach has its pros and cons. A financial advisor can help you decide the best approach for your circumstances.

For a free 30-minute consultation with a financial advisor in our network, get in touch or take our 5-minute Q&A.

What is a legal loan for separation — and how does it work?

One of our network members, Plenti, offers personal loans specifically designed to fund legal fees for family law matters.

That means they provide people with a line of credit to use as needed to pay for legal fees and other costs.

The legal loan is secured against an asset (for example, a house) and repaid as a lump sum at the very end.

Plenti’s typical client is a stay-at-home parent who can’t simply draw from an existing income to pay for legal fees. But people also take out legal loans to:

  • avoid selling valuable assets before they’ve matured
  • avoid inflaming tensions by asking an ex-partner or the Court for money
  • simply ease the pressure on everyday life (school fees, etc)

You can apply for a legal loan directly on Plenti’s website.

Plenti also welcomes questions at any time. You can email them at legalfinance@plenti.com.au or call 02 7202 2427.

If we go to Court, what am I likely to get?

If you go to Court, there are no hard rules as to what you may get in a separation.

The court will decide what is ‘just’ in the circumstances considering:

  • The parties’ financial, non-financial and homemaker contributions to the relationship. This is the pool of assets.
  • This includes an assessment of inheritances and gifts received by either party from a third party.
  • The parties’ future needs. These are assessed by comparing, among other considerations, the income disparity between the parties, the primary care of children and medical issues that will affect a parties’ earning capacity.
How can an accountant or financial advisor help me in a separation?

With separation, people usually think about needing Mediators or Family Lawyers.

But accountants and financial advisors are ‘just as important as the Lawyers when it comes to assisting people in separation and divorce,’ says Mediator Jack Whelan.

‘It’s crucial to understand the pool of assets and get all the financial matters sorted.’

Generally accountants and financial advisors play slightly different roles in a separation.

An accountant can help a couple to a complete picture of all the assets, liabilities and income streams in their relationship. This work is essential to enable the division of assets at settlement.

A financial advisor helps a person get their financial house in order ahead of a separation — and start planning for a secure financial future. They are part-financial guru part-life coach.

Find out more

> Read more in our article, Who’s who in your separation crew
> Listen to our podcast, The cost of conflict: An accountant’s perspective on separation
> Listen to our podcast with a financial advisor: Planning your finances after separation

Parenting

How do we talk to the children about our separation?

‘It’s important to be able to manage your own emotional reactions in the situation,’ says Tarnya Davis, Director at NewPsych.

‘It’s okay to be sad and to tell the children that you’re feeling sad and upset and acknowledge the emotional part of that. But to keep it so that it allows space for the kids and not to make it rushed.’

When communicating, some key things to consider include:

  • modelling good behaviour for the kids to observe
  • being positive and respectful about and towards each other
  • knowing that the responsibility of parenting will continue even when the relationship has ended.
Find out more

> Listen to our podcast: How to discuss a separation with kids

What is a Parenting Plan?

There are three main types of agreements when it comes to the care of children after separation.

  • A Parenting Plan
  • A Consent Order
  • A Parenting Order

People will often refer to these various documents as a Custody Plan, but they are used in different circumstances and have different legal effects.

Find out more

> Read more in our guide to parenting agreements

What is the legal process for putting a Parenting Plan in place?

In general terms, the law requires that the interest of the child or children come first.

Thus whatever arrangements are made in a parenting plan these interests come first and need to be maximised.

The law also tries to encourage out-of-Court settlement to try and reduce the stress on all parties and especially children.

To this end, this is how it works:

  1. Prior to making an application to the Court for the resolution of children’s issues, both parents are required to make a genuine attempt to reach agreement in relation to parenting arrangements.
  2. A genuine attempt to reach agreement includes the parties attending dispute resolution with a registered family dispute resolution practitioner.
  3. If the parties reach an agreement, then the parties have the opportunity to enter into a parenting plan or Consent Orders.
  4. Should the matter remain unresolved after family dispute resolution, a Section 60I Certificate can be issued.
  5. This Certificate must be filed with any children’s issues application to the Court. However, in certain circumstances, the Court may grant you an exemption from participating in family dispute resolution. These circumstances include urgent matters and matters involving child abuse and/or family violence.
  6. A Parenting Plan sets out parenting arrangements for the children.
  7. A Parenting Plan must be in writing, signed and dated by the parents. It is not a court order and is not legally enforceable. However, if a Parenting Plan is signed by parents after a Consent Order, then the Parenting Plan will take precedence over the earlier dated Consent Order.
  8. A Consent Order is a legally enforceable document and if a party does not comply with the terms of a Court Order, there can be serious consequences. A Consent Order must be prepared in a form which is appropriate to the court. The document must then be signed, dated and filed in the court.
  9. If the Court decides that the parents should have equal shared parental responsibility for the children, then the Court must consider if it is in the best interests of the children and reasonably practical for the children to spend equal time with each parent.
  10. If a Court does not consider equal time suitable, then the Court must consider an Order such that the children live primarily with one parent and spend significant and substantial time with the other parent. Significant and substantial time can include weekends, weekdays, holidays and other special events.
What is 'nesting' in separation?

Nesting in separation (or “bird-nesting” ) is when the children of a relationship remain living in one home space while the separated parents move in and out on a rotating basis.

Often used in the early phase of separation, nesting can be an interim arrangement while formal shared parenting arrangements are made. Keeping children in the family home supports them being as undisrupted as possible, allowing everyone to adjust to the changes in a more familiar environment.

Generally, this is more appropriate where the separation is amicable and should be considered on a case by case basis. Please note: this is not appropriate in some circumstances particularly where there is any Family Violence.

You can read more about nesting in this article recently in The Guardian here.

Property

If I leave the house after separation, will I lose my share in the property?

No. This is a common misconception.

The house is a marital asset like any other and will be considered in the division of assets.

If it is unsafe or unpleasant to stay in the house with an ex, it is important for people to be able to leave without affecting the financial settlement.

If I live in a de facto relationship will my interest in the property be recognised?

Yes.

Is it possible to live together in the same home and still be separated?

Yes.

Many people believe the opposite to be true. However, this is simply a family law myth.

‘Separation’s not just physical,’ explains Family Lawyer Rebecca Dahl from Nicholes Family Lawyers in our podcast. ‘It’s really about the intention behind what people are doing.’

Find out more

> Listen to our podcast: 10 common family law myths busted

What are my legal rights if I have property?

In general terms you have a right to an outcome which is ‘fair and equitable’. That’s what separation and divorce settlements have to be in accordance with Australian Law.

In order to work this out, a number of things need to be established:

  1. The size of the property pool must be established.
  2. This includes all the parties’ assets, liabilities and financial resources.
  3. This involves full and frank financial disclosure by each party.
  4. It will mean obtaining valuations on some assets such as houses, superannuation accounts and businesses.
  5. The parties’ financial, non-financial and homemaker contributions to the relationship are assessed. This includes an assessment of inheritances and gifts received by either party from a third party.
  6. The parties’ future needs are assessed by comparing. among other considerations, the income disparity between the parties, the primary care of children and medical issues that will affect a parties’ earning capacity.
  7. For married couples, applications to the Court for property division must be made within twelve months of the divorce becoming final.
  8. For de facto couples, applications to the court for property division must be made within two years of separation.

Communication

Can we separate or divorce on good terms?

You can if the separation or divorce is relatively amicable.

The Separation Guide Q&A will help you and your partner determine some of these key factors around amicability.

Is there enough goodwill and trust so we will be honest with each other through the process?

This especially applies to full disclosure of all of the assets and liabilities to be divided.

If the answer is yes then separation can generally be simpler, less expensive and less emotionally draining.

I want to use The Separation Guide...but my partner isn't convinced.

When choosing the best way to separate, it’s common for partners to push for different things.

Perhaps you’d like to use The Separation Guide process but your partner isn’t sure. They might be worried that a choice suggested by you will work against them.

Working towards a fair and equitable outcome for both partners is at the core of what we do — as well as aiming to avoid escalation and keep costs down for everyone.

Because The Separation Guide is exactly that – a guide. It guides both couples and individuals to:

  • A better understanding of what they need;
  • The right process for them; and
  • The right providers for them.

By taking our 5-minute online Q&A, your partner can access tailored separation recommendations and a free 30-minute consultation to help them decide if the approach is right for them too.

So, when the question is asked:
Why should I trust the service you have selected?

The answer is:
Check out the site and do the Q&A. It’s all about you and I both getting a fair deal.

Find out more

> Read this blog post for more detail about how you can use The Separation Guide together or separately.

Network Members

What kind of advisors are in your network?

We’re growing a network of advisors across Australia.

Everyone shares a common purpose: trying to get people through the separation maze as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

We’re looking for the following professionals across Australia:

  • Mediators
  • Lawyers
  • Relationship counsellors
  • Psychologists (including child psychologists)
  • Accountants
  • Immigration advisors
  • Property consultants
  • Financial advisors

If that sounds like you or your practice, please get in touch.

How can I join The Separation Guide's network?

If you share our values — and have a family law practice, accounting firm, financial services practice or psychology practice — we’d like to hear from you.

Simply get in touch to start the ball rolling.

All Network Members sign our Ethical Charter. This means they commit to certain principles such as Court as a last resort and fee transparency.