Separation or divorce is a complex process – what should I do?

Nov 30, 2014

When a couple decides they want to separate, many decisions need to be made.

Practical issues

Some of the practical issues to be resolved as part of a separation include:

  • setting up separate residences, and, often, finding somewhere to live in a hurry
  • sorting out money and property issues
  • making arrangements for the ongoing care of children.

Couples also have to deal with the responses that their children, parents, extended family and friends have to the separation.

As separation involves making changes to many aspects of their lives, most people find the journey to a new life, home and relationship is hard, even if the parties have agreed on the need to separate and are being cooperative.

There is support to help you through separation

You can get free information and advice from the following:

Disputes about children and property

The most common areas of difference and conflict following separation  are disagreements about care of the children and sharing of property.

Under current family law, there is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility except in cases involving violence or child abuse.  This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 time split – arrangements will depend on what is practicable and in the best interests of the child.

Family Dispute Resolution

As an alternative to resolving parenting disputes via legal means, Relationships Australia offers a Family Dispute Resolution service (now compulsory in cases not involving violence or child abuse) for couples in conflict over issues such as child contact.  Family Dispute Resolution provides clients with a safe, supportive atmosphere and a method of talking to one another, to assist them to sort out the issues and come up with acceptable solutions.

Relationships Australia has staff who have been trained to involve children in this process.  Understanding how children feel and have been affected by separation often helps parents think and arrive at solutions that are in the best interests of the children.

Relationships Australia staff are also able to assist couple to resolve their differences over sharing property. The more amicably and calmly this can be done, the more there is to share.

Family dispute resolution is a voluntary process, and the decisions made are not legally binding. Everyone gets the opportunity to express his or her own point of view and is free to talk about issues of concern, with everyone present. Participants must be willing to listen to the other party and be genuinely willing to negotiate, compromise and commit to reaching a solution.

Family Dispute Resolution Certificates

If you are separated and want to apply to the Family Law Courts for a parenting order, you will need a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution practitioner to confirm that an attempt at family dispute resolution was made.

To find your nearest Relationships Australia family dispute resolution service view our list of office locations and Family Relationships Centres or phone us on 1300 364 277.

There are some exceptions to the requirement for a certificate, including cases involving family violence or child abuse.  For more information visit the Australian Government’s Family Relationships Online website at or call the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321.



Relationships Australia offers various forms of support:

Family Relationships Centres

Family Relationship Centres provide information and confidential assistance for families at all stages in their lives.

Centres have a focus on providing family dispute resolution (mediation) to enable separating families achieve workable parenting arrangements outside the Court system.


Counselling can assist individuals, couples and families end relationships in a way that minimises hurt and allows for respectful ongoing communication.

Family Dispute Resolution

Family Dispute Resolution: assists parents to resolve conflict that affects children and to help them make appropriate arrangements for the care of children after separation including parenting plans. Depending on their age and situation, children can be interviewed by specially-trained staff to find out how the separation process is affecting them and what their wishes are.

Children’s Contact Service

Children’s Contact Service makes it possible for contact arrangements to take place with a minimum of stress both for children and their parents.  Children’s Contact Services provides a safe child-focussed environment in which children can be handed from one parent to the other without the parents meeting.  In some situations, under court orders or with the agreement of both parents, a parent can spend time with his/her children under supervision at the service location.

Relationships Australia also offers Relationship Courses and Family Skills Courses that may be useful for parents at this time. These courses are available in each Australian state and territory.



Useful information to download

Relationships Australia has published free booklets to help men and women who are going through separation and divorce. The booklets have been written to:

  • help separating men and women make sense of their feelings
  • help guide them through some constructive choices
  • raise their awareness of some services that may help

You can download booklets and other resources now:

Share the Care (children)

A Fair Share (property)

Women and Separation

Men and Separation

Parenting Plan: “Share the care – Collaborative parenting apart” (pdf)
This Relationships Australia Parenting Plan Booklet is a resource to help separating parents work out arrangements for the care of their children. Works, thought it would be good to go directly to the pdf dated 2013

“What about the Children?” an information booklet for parents to help their children cope with separation. Works, thought it would be good to go directly to the pdf