Separation

  • What is Separation?
  • Is it OK to be separated and to still live together?
  • What happens if I separate but I am not a permanent resident of Australia?
  • If I am married and I separate, do I need to get a divorce straight away?
  • I am about to separate or have just separated – what do I need to do?
  • Can I take the children with me?

What is Separation?

Separation is when you stop being a couple. You do not need to get your partner’s agreement to separate. You should make it clear that the relationship is over for you.

Is it OK to be separated and to still live together?

Yes. Neither of you have to leave the house just because you are separated. It is often better if whoever cares for  the children continues to stay in the house so there is as little disruption for children as possible.

Often, when a relationship breaks down, people become upset and angry. They may physically threaten or hurt you. This is against the law. If you do not feel safe you can ask the police or a court for a Domestic Violence Order to protect you. A condition of the order may be that your former partner cannot have any contact with you. This means that they will not be able to come to anywhere you live or work, even if they own or rent the house you live in.

For more information see Domestic violence.

What happens if I separate but I am not an Australian resident?

Often you need to tell the Department of Immigration and Border Protection if you separate because it could affect your ability to stay in Australia. You should get advice from a lawyer or a registered migration agent as soon as possible about how separation will affect you and what your options are.

If I am married and I separate, do I need to get a divorce straight away?

No, in fact you are not able to apply for a divorce until you have been separated for at least 12 months.

I am about to separate or have just separated – what do I need to do?

  1. Get legal advice. It is always best before you separate to get some legal advice about your rights and options.
  1. There is no need to do a property settlement as soon as you separate but you do need to make arrangements about the children, about  money and the immediate future. There are time limits in some situations depending on whether you were married or in a defacto relationship. you should seek legal advice about this as early as possible.
  1. Work out how you are going  support yourself. You can talk to Centrelink to see what payments you may be able to get (you may qualify for an emergency payment) and register for child support.
  1. Set up your own bank account and make sure that any payments such as wages and government payments go into this account and cannot be accessed by your former partner.
  1. Make arrangements for how any mortgages or loans are going to be paid e.g. talk to the bank and let them know that you have separated. If you are not going to be able to meet the repayments straight away then you may be able to get some short term relief or assistance on the grounds of financial hardship.
  1. If you have joint bank accounts or credit cards think about and discuss how money will be accessed by each of you and notify the bank of your separation. The bank can  discuss possible options.
  1. If you choose to move out you can:

–     Take some money from a joint bank account to set yourself up. Be mindful your ex-partner will also need some money to live on;

–        take reasonable household furniture and effects, especially if you are looking after children;

–        take all your legal and financial papers with you, such as:

  • Birth and other certificates
  • Passports and immigration documents
  • Bank and cheque books
  • Loan documents
  • Superannuation, tax, insurance and other financial papers
  • Wills
  • Personal things you want to keep safe
  • Items you may need for yourself and your children if they are going with you.
  1. You should take steps to preserve any assets and liabilities – see Property for information.
  1. Review your Will – often partners nominate each other as executors and beneficiaries in their Wills. If you separate you must change your Will to reflect this. It does not automatically happen once you separate.
  1. Superannuation – usually when you become a member of a superannuation fund you nominate a beneficiary in the event you die. This is usually your spouse or partner. When you separate, if you no longer want your spouse or partner to be a beneficiary you must tell your superannuation fund.
  1. Children – If you have children, explain to them what is happening and make proper arrangements for them – see Children for more information.

Can I take the children with me?

Yes, but remember that the law says children have a right to a relationship with each parent. Children must be safe and not exposed to domestic violence.

If the move will make it more difficult for the other parent to see the children,  it is good to try and get the other parent’s agreement first. If possible, get legal advice, even if you have the other parent’s agreement in writing.

If you leave town with the children without agreement by their other parent; or if you refuse to allow the children to see the other parent without good reason for doing so, then the other parent could apply to the Family Court to get the kids brought back.

If you feel you or the children are at risk of being hurt, get help quickly.

Call the police on 131 444 OR 000 IN EMERGENCY.

Call the Department of Children and Families on 1800 700 250.

A domestic violence crisis service can also help you. CALL 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24-hour Information and support.

Get legal help as soon as possible. Call Helpline on 1800 019 343.

Under Northern Territory law,  child abuse or domestic violence has to be reported to:

– the Department of Children and Families  on 1800 700 250)     OR

– Police on 131 444 or 000 in emergency.

See Contacts for more information on where to get help.