How it works

What is The Separation Guide?

The Separation Guide is a social enterprise that provides support, education and connection hub for people going through or considering a separation or divorce.

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

The interactive 3-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.

It’s also your entry point to your Support Hub.

What is my Support Hub?

Your Support Hub is your central location for practical support during your separation, with personalised plans, checklists, tips, educational resources and connection to ethical professionals.

We’ve built it to give you some clarity during a difficult time.

Take the Q&A to receive access to your tailored Support Hub.

 

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:

  • Our 3-minute Q&A is designed to provide you with information and potential next steps. You’ll be given access to your personalised Support Hub and free 15-minute consultations with our trusted network of advisors.
  • Our printable Separation & Divorce checklist (Pdf) runs through 15 key to-dos.
  • Our free resources section has everything from podcasts to templates.

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 3-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 3-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 3-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 Mediators 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 on our Guided Separation service page.

What is Separation Support?

Separation Support is a paid service that lets you talk through your situation with an impartial separation expert. They can give you practical guidance on your options and peace of mind that you are on the right track.

In your session your Separation Consultant can:

  • assess your needs and goals
  • break down your complex situation and help you find the smoothest path through
  • answer many of your questions about navigating the system of separation and divorce in Australia
  • let you know when it’s the right time to engage legal and financial professionals
  • give you some clarity on your next step and help you know when to take action.

You can find out more on our Separation Support service page.

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 Separation Guide network members 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 JustFund 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 3-minute Q&A.

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

One of our network members, JustFund, 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.

JustFund’s typical client is someone who has a property division in their separation, but can’t access the money to pay for legal advice before things are finalised. For example, 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 find out if you’re eligible for a JustFund loan here, or visit their website for more information.

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.

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 our blog 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.

The law does not require you to separate from your partner physically to be able to record a date of separation. However, there are some factors that determine whether you are truly separated.

  • The intention of the parties. If you and your partner both understand that you are separated, the courts will likely consider you to be separated even if you live in the same home.
  • The conduct of the parties. If you and your partner are behaving as if you are no longer in a relationship, the courts will likely consider you to be separated. For example, living separate lives, sleeping in separate bedrooms, cooking and cleaning for yourselves, and not sharing meals.

If you have stopped living as a couple, you can choose to record a date of separation even if you are still living together.

If you are married, one year and one day past this date is the earliest the Court will allow you to apply for a divorce. If you are de facto and want to apply for a property settlement, you must do so within two years of this date.

Find out more

> Read more in our blog, How to separate with your spouse while living together 

What are my legal rights if I have property?

You have a right to a proportion of the property split that is considered ‘fair and equitable’ under Australian Law.

In order to work out what is fair, a number of things are considered.

  1. You must establish the size of the property pool. This includes all the parties’ assets, liabilities and financial resources. You both must give full and frank financial disclosure to be within the law.
  2. You’ll need to obtain valuations on some assets such as houses, both parties’ superannuation accounts and businesses.
  3. Your financial, non-financial and homemaker contributions to the relationship are assessed. Financial contributions include any inheritances and gifts either of you has received from a third party.
  4. Both of your 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 party’s earning capacity.

For married couples, applications to the Court for property division must be made within twelve months of the divorce becoming final.

For de facto couples, applications to the court for property division must be made within two years of separation.

When do I need a property valuation?

There are benefits to a formal property valuation when you separate and times when it is compulsory.

  • A professional valuation ensures you both understand the asset pool and that the settlement agreement you negotiate is transparent and fair.
  • An expert valuation early on can help you know where you stand so you can decide if buying out or selling is your best option.
  • An unbiased valuation will help you reach a figure if you can’t agree on the value of your property.
  • In cases that go to Court, you must submit a valuation report from a registered independent property valuer as evidence.
What happens to my mortgage?

When you separate and are co-borrowers on a mortgage, your contract is between both parties and the lender. You are jointly and severally responsible for meeting your mortgage payments, which means that you are both responsible for the whole loan amount and not just part of the home loan.

Make sure you discuss how you will split your financial obligations to meet your payments.

If you want to buy out your partner and keep your home, a new loan needs to be established based on your individual borrowing power. This must cover the existing loan plus your ex-partner’s agreed share of the equity.

Find out more

> Read more in our blog What happens to our home loan when we separate?

> Listen to our podcast, Buy out or sell? Mortgages and separation.

When do I need a mortgage broker?

A mortgage broker can be helpful during separation if you and your spouse are planning to sell your home and divide the proceeds, or if one of you is planning to buy out your former partner’s share of the property. In either of these situations, a mortgage broker can help you to understand your options for financing the sale or buyout and find a mortgage lender that meets your needs.

A mortgage broker can provide valuable expertise and guidance in the following areas:

  • Assessing your current financial situation and creditworthiness and identifying potential hurdles that may affect your ability to obtain a mortgage.
  • Exploring different mortgage options available to you and helping you compare the costs and benefits of each option.
  • Negotiating with mortgage lenders on your behalf to secure the best possible terms and interest rates for your loan.
  • Helping you to understand the legal and tax implications of your mortgage and providing advice on how to structure the loan in a way that maximizes your financial benefits.
  • Working with your lawyer and other professionals involved in your separation to coordinate the mortgage process and settlement.

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 that you suggest may 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.

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 3-minute online Q&A, your partner can access tailored separation recommendations and a free introductory 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 both of us 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.

Why book through The Separation Guide?

Why book with The Separation Guide Network Members?

When you hire a professional trade or service, you probably ask friends and family for recommendations. Easy, right?

But when you’re going through a separation, it’s not always so straightforward.
Perhaps no one close to you has been through a separation or they have a bad story about their own experience that you’d like to avoid. Or maybe you’re just not ready to share your situation.

That’s where The Separation Guide comes in. We aim to be your central hub of trusted information and connection throughout your separation, taking away the hard work of finding the right people.

The Separation Guide recognised that divorce is much more than just a legal issue, so we brought together a network of qualified experts across Australia to support you through all aspects of your separation.

Our Network includes Mediators, Family Lawyers, Financial Advisors, mortgage brokers, property valuers, divorce coaches and child support services, plus our in-house Separation Support consultants.

Our Ethical Charter outlines our commitment to cost transparency, open communication, de-escalation and Court as a last resort. We only recommend professionals who align with our values and choose to be part of our movement. All of our members sign our charter and share our commitment.

You can have the peace of mind that our Network Members will put your best interests first.

Why book with professionals through The Separation Guide's booking system?

You can book directly with the professionals in our network through your Support Hub. It contains recommendations for all the services you might need for your unique situation. You can create a free personal Support Hub account by completing our 3-minute Q&A.

The Support Hub lets you book straight into your recommended provider’s calendar at a time that suits you. Your initial meeting booked through your Support Hub is free with each provider, so you can meet Network Members before you commit.

When you make an appointment through the booking link in your Support Hub, your provider can download your Q&A responses. You save time and hourly fees explaining your situation from scratch and repeating information over and over again with each new professional you speak to.

So when you’re ready to take the next step, head to your Support Hub and book with providers you can trust.

Does it cost me more to book professionals through The Separation Guide than if I go direct?

No. In fact, booking through The Separation Guide’s Support Hub  can save you money.

When you book through us, the professional you meet with can download your details from our system. Because you already shared some information with us by completing the Q&A, you don’t have to pay for your professional’s time going over those details again.

By using The Separation Guide’s educational resources, you can also save time and money by preparing for any paid meetings you book with your service professionals. The more prepared you are, the more you can get out of each meeting.

You’ll have a good idea of the basics and won’t need to spend time asking simple questions. You’ll be able to go deeper on your first meeting.

What do I need to pay The Separation Guide?

For most bookings, you don’t need to pay us anything. We are here to connect you to external professionals. They work with us, not for us.

Most of the bookings in our system are free initial chats with the professionals in our network. You then engage that professional directly for any further work you need them to do. If the session you are booking is a paid session, the costs are outlined in the booking description, and the professional will invoice you.

There are some exceptions.

  • Our paid Guided Separation program, Separation Support sessions, and Do-it-yourself Separation Toolkit are products that we have developed and run in-house. You pay us for these services.
  • For some non-legal or financial advice services, we collect payment from our members and forward the funds to the service providers on your behalf. Whether you book through us or directly, you pay the same price.
  • For legal finance, we receive a 1% commission for connecting you with the provider, educating you, and simplifying your application process.
How does The Separation Guide operate?

We are a social enterprise. We do not receive any government funding or grants for our work.

Our mission is to make divorce and separation simpler and less stressful and to help de-escalate, thereby reducing costs to Australians experiencing this complex life event.

When it comes to lawyers and financial advisors, it is against our values to charge a commission model, and it is also against regulations within those industries. For that reason, we charge an annual fixed membership fee for that provider to be connected to our network.

We only welcome members to our network whose values align with our mission. They all sign our Ethical Charter before they can be recommended to you.