When separation is likely, what comes next?

Although fewer Australians are choosing to get married1, divorce appears to be on the rise.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, divorces granted across the country in 2017 rose by 5% from just one year prior in 20162.

More than half (56.7%) of divorcing females in 2017 were under age 45 compared with 48.3% of males3, and the average first marriage that ends in separation lasts about 8 years4.  As a result, Australia is seeing increasing numbers of relatively young men and women choosing separation or divorce in under just one decade of married life together.

You’ve decided separation is best.  Now what?

From a logistics standpoint, couples who have decided to divorce actually need to formally separate first.  This is because the Australian Family Law Act of 1975 requires a mandatory 12-month separation period before being able to file for a divorce.

There is no official document required which states that you and your partner have separated, you just need to be able to prove to the law that you have separated – this usually means living separately under the assumption that the relationship is over.


Here’s a basic list of things to start to consider:

  1. If you have children, how and when will you tell them? A united front, as with most parenting, is usually best, so see if you can come up with a plan for how to tell your children together that you’re separating.  Try to steer clear from any blame games when telling your children as this will only make things harder for everyone.
  2. Where will your children live and who will take care of them while you’re separated?
  3. How and when will you tell your family and friends?
  4. Prepare yourself for lots of questions from family and friends, and especially children. You will be going through your own emotions about the relationship breakdown, so when others (especially kids) want to know more and press on sensitive issues, be mindful that this might intensify your own feelings.  Set boundaries around what you’re willing to share or not share, allow yourself to express your emotions, and seek help and support through whatever avenue feels right.
  5. Who’s going to look after the pets?
  6. What kind of supports do you have to take care of yourself during your separation? Friends, family, faith, exercise, counselling, hobbies, massages, travel… What can you do to nurture yourself during this really stressful time?
  7. Finances – who’s going to remain paying what? Think of any outstanding bills, mortgages, car payments, childcare, furniture…


When you’re ready for divorce, consider collaborative lawyers or mediation lawyers.

Collaborative lawyers are trained in helping couples negotiate their own terms of settlement, without the intervention of the Court.

Couples are encouraged to work together for mutual betterment and are kept to a high standard of behavioural conduct in the room, meaning the process can be as peaceful as possible in such a stressful time.  This means, less time, money, and long-drawn out emotions spent on the divorce.

We’ve spoken to a few collaborative lawyers, and they’ve given us a few tips for couples when they’e ready to file for divorce:

  1. Prepare a financial rap sheet, including a list of your assets (house, car, savings, stocks, bonds, etc.) and roughly how much you think each are worth
  2. Put together ra relationship timeline with key events (when you got together, moved in together, married, birth of children, etc.)


Having a few things prepared for your lawyers before you meet with them will shave off some time and money and help you move through the painful process of separation much quicker.  Here at Couples Therapy Melbourne, we have relationships with a few local collaborative lawyers which we recommend you consider when you’re ready for divorce:

Berry Family Law

R.B. Flinders

Sayer Jones Family Law



1Total marriages, Australia, 1997-2017(a)-Total marriages, Australia, 1997-2017(a)

2Total divorces granted, Australia, 1997-2017(a)-Total divorces granted, Australia, 1997-2017(a)

3Age at divorce, Age group, Australia, 2017-Age at divorce, Age group, Australia, 2017

4Median duration to separation and divorce, Australia, 1997-2017-Median duration to separation and divorce, Australia, 1997-2017