How it works
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.
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 5-minute Q&A is designed to provide you with information and potential next steps. At the end, you’ll be able to access a free 30-minute consultation from a legal professional in our network.
- Our printable Separation & Divorce checklist (Pdf) runs through 15 key to dos.
- Our free resources section has everything from podcasts to templates.
Divorce is the formal legal ending of a marriage.
Separation generally means living apart from each other but it is possible to be ‘separated under one roof’ if certain criteria are met.
If you are separated under the one roof, it is important to get legal advice.
Note: The granting of a divorce does not determine issues of financial support, property distribution or arrangements for children.
It simply recognises that the marriage has ended.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Family Lawyers
- Financial advisors
- 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.
> Who does what? Read our guide to who’s who in your separation crew.
The legally-qualified Mediators and Family Lawyers 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 at the end of this.
If you know which type of professional you want to speak with, get in touch with us to be connected.
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.
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?
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:
Any liabilities of the relationship will also need to be factored in. For example:
- Car loans
- Student loans
> Our Pool of Assets Calculator helps you identify assets and liabilities that need to be considered in your separation.
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.
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.
> Watch our video: Is a 50/50 split fair?
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.
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.
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.
> 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
‘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.
> Listen to our podcast: How to discuss a separation with kids
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.
> Read more in our guide to parenting agreements
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:
- 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.
- A genuine attempt to reach agreement includes the parties attending dispute resolution with a registered family dispute resolution practitioner.
- If the parties reach an agreement, then the parties have the opportunity to enter into a parenting plan or Consent Orders.
- Should the matter remain unresolved after family dispute resolution, a Section 60I Certificate can be issued.
- 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.
- A Parenting Plan sets out parenting arrangements for the children.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.’
> Listen to our podcast: 10 common family law myths busted
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:
- The size of the property pool must be established.
- This includes all the parties’ assets, liabilities and financial resources.
- This involves full and frank financial disclosure by each party.
- It will mean obtaining valuations on some assets such as houses, superannuation accounts and businesses.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
We all have legal rights to protect us when we confront challenging times like separation and/or divorce.
If you have a Lawyer, use them. But use them wisely to reduce cost. And to assist them and you, equip yourself with the right questions to ask them by clicking here and downloading the ‘Questions you need to ask your lawyer’ checklist.
If you require legal advice, speak to us and one of the members of our service network can assist.
While you do not need, by the letter of the law, to engage a lawyer for all stages of a separation or divorce it is vitally important to understand your legal rights.
> Download Questions to ask your Lawyer (PDF)
Whether you’re married or in a de facto relationship, you have the same rights at family law.
In fact, the length of the relationship will have more bearing on any financial outcomes than whether you’re married or not.
It can however be more challenging to establish when a de facto relationship started and ended — which can have financial implications.
By the letter of the law you do not need a Lawyer during all stages of a separation or divorce.
But you must understand both your legal rights and how to navigate the maze.
And depending on the nature of your settlement you may need independent verification of the fairness and equity of your settlement – something which The Separation Guide can organise.
To find out your recommended next steps, complete our 5-minute Q&A. Based on your recommended next steps, The Separation Guide can connect you with the right people.
If your separation is fair and equitable and on good terms, then both parties could engage a qualified professional to guide or mediate the separation.
This takes you down a more pleasant path. No need for long expensive Court battles, less cost, less angst and easier for everyone.
Through our Network Members The Separation Guide will connect you with the right services for your situation.
One approach is a Guided Separation. This involves a legally-qualified Mediator helping you both make the arrangements you choose.
If the separation is not on good terms then both parties having their own independent legal representation is advisable. This can also be organised by The Separation Guide.
Mindful that if a person wants to apply to the Court for an order in relation to a child they will need to obtain a certificate from the FDR practitioner before applying, unless an exception applies.
That means in these types of matters dispute resolution is compulsory as required by the Australian Government.
So, whether you are involved in a Guided Separation or engage independent Lawyers depends on the nature of the separation.
There is no right or wrong path, it depends on the circumstances you are in.
Sometimes there has to be a legal confrontation in order for a party to assert its legal rights – this tends to be the case where there has been a power imbalance in the relationship or where there is a lack of trust.
You’re bound to have lots of questions about how the legal process works and what your outcome might look like.
Questions for a Lawyer can include:
- How will my contributions from the relationships be considered?
- What do my partner and I have to disclose to each other?
- Am I entitled to payments from my partner in the future and for how long?
- How does the law make decisions about custody of the children?
> To get you started, we’ve made a printable sheet, Questions to ask your lawyer (pdf).
It has space for you to write down answers to any questions.
Once you have been separated for 12 months or more you are ready to submit your divorce to the Courts.
A Lawyer or Mediator can help you with this process. If you need to be connected with a legal professional, simply get in touch.
The Family Law Act states:
- You must make a genuine effort to resolve your disputes through ‘dispute resolution’ before you can apply to the Courts for divorce;
- You can apply for a divorce in Australia if either you or your spouse:
- are an Australian citizen; or
- ordinarily live in Australia and have done so for 12 months
- When granting a divorce, the Court does not consider why the marriage ended;
- The only ground for divorce is that the marriage broke down and there is no reasonable likelihood that the parties will get back together.
- You need to satisfy the Court that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months, and there is no reasonable likelihood of resuming married life.
- The granting of a divorce does not determine issues of financial support, property distribution or arrangements for children. It simply recognises that the marriage has ended.
- It is possible to live together in the same home and still be separated.
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.
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.
> Read this blog post for more detail about how you can use The Separation Guide together or separately.
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:
- Relationship counsellors
- Psychologists (including child psychologists)
- Immigration advisors
- Property consultants
- Financial advisors
If that sounds like you or your practice, please get in touch.
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.