About this guide

Who is this information for?

Family Law in Australia is all the same under Commonwealth Law. There are some slight differences in WA (see our friends at Legal Aid WA if you live in the west) but in general the principles are the same.

This is a guide to family law affecting people who are thinking about or have already separated from their partner, as well as people who need to reach an agreement about children, child support or property.

Family law covers a broad range of family relationship issues:

This booklet gives a brief outline of each of these areas to help people understand what their options are when separating.  It does not replace getting legal advice. Everyone’s situation is unique and Family Law is complicated so it is best to visit a lawyer to discuss your own situation. To get help call our Helpline on 1800 019 343

This guide looks at how to make arrangements for children and property without having to go to court.

You will also find Useful Contacts and information on places to go for help including a guide to working out Which Service you need. Remember separation or family law can be stressful so look after yourself.

Legal words

To help you, we have explained some words in What do these words mean?

What the law says in brief

In Australia the law does not look at whose fault it is that a relationship broke down.

The law’s main concern where children are involved is what is best for the children. As long as it is safe, children should have a relationship with each parent and other important people in their lives.

In dividing property the law looks at everything the couple owns, owes and earns, and then divides these according to what it considers fair. It is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about making arrangements for the future.

Changes to the law

The law changes all the time. The information in this booklet was correct when published. To check for any changes you can call the Legal Aid Helpline on 1800 019 343.

Getting help

Any relationship breakdown is stressful. It can be especially hard if there are children involved. You might also find it difficult to cope financially.

Making decisions at this time is not easy, but there is help available. Getting legal advice and other support can help you understand what choices you have.

Everyone’s situation is unique and Family Law is complicated so it is best to visit a lawyer to discuss your own situation. To get help call Helpline on 1800 019 343

Talking to a lawyer does not mean you have to go to court, although lawyers can help you do this if you need to.

If possible, try to talk to your former partner about making arrangements for the future. If you can agree on a plan this can be better for everyone.

If you feel worried for your safety, intimidated, or feel that you cannot make decisions equally with your former partner you can get help. See Domestic Violence’

You can get help to make a parenting or property agreement from the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission. There is a Family Dispute Resolution service that helps people come to an agreement.

A Family Relationship Centre or other family dispute resolution service can also help, but they cannot give you legal advice. These community services can also refer you for other kinds of help with your relationship with your former partner.

Free Interpreters can be arranged for legal advice, family dispute resolution or court.

A Family Law Duty Lawyer service is available to help you at court  if you do not have a lawyer.  If you are in Darwin come to the Duty Lawyer office at the court or if not call 08 89820821  from 830 am on the day you are in court.

More Information 

The Family Law Courts produce this brochure providing information for people considering or affected by divorce or separation.

For quick answers to frequently asked questions you may wish to see this handy factsheet or download What happens when your relationship ends, produced by NSW Legal Aid.

Victoria Legal Aid’s free do-it-yourself family law kit helps you prepare a family law case and represent yourself in court.

Contacting Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission

To speak to a Legal Aid Helpline Operator call 1800 019 343.

Also see ‘Contacts and ‘Which Service Do I Need?’ for more ideas on where to go for help.