What you should know before you decide to separate

Before you and your partner make your final decision to separate, it’s important to understand what’s really involved.

It’s not just a simple matter of moving your things out of your partner’s house – separation can involve a number of complex, time consuming and costly processes and decisions, including asset division, child maintenance and visitation, debts and repayments, and even deciding who gets to keep the pets.

Factors to consider when separating

Beyond making the sometimes tough decision to separate, there are a range of factors which must be considered before separating. Couples with children have an extra layer of complexity, while all couples will need to decide on issues of joint finance, property and assets.

Children and family

Dependent children add an extra level of difficulty to a separation. The key is always to focus on what is best for the child or children. However, what constitutes ‘best’ will vary from parent to parent, making these choices all the more contentious.

When separating, it’s important to consider:

  • Where your children will live?
  • How involved will both parents be?
  • How you will support yourself (and any children)
  • Who is going to tell friends and family?

For many separated partners, where the children live can change throughout their lives. Sometimes one parent may have 100% custody, other times kids might stay with one parent during term time and the other during holidays while other children might swap households completely.


Whether you share financial responsibilities equally or have a sole breadwinner within your relationship, resolving financial disputes will always be a complex issue. Some financial considerations when separating include:

  • Who’s responsible for paying outstanding bills or debts?
  • How the rent or mortgage will be paid
  • What will happen to any joint bank, building society or credit union accounts?

Whatever your personal situation, keeping a small pot of emergency money aside is a smart way to guard against financial hardship if your relationship breaks down.

House, property and assets 

Dividing assets can be highly contentious, especially for big ticket items like homes and cars. Some factors to consider when separating include:

  • Who will stay in the house — if you own, lease or rent a property, who will get to stay there while the other moves out?
  • How much money will the person not staying in your shared home need to secure a new place if there are no parents or friends who can take them in?
  • Who keeps what property? Cars, furniture and other major possessions like electronics, tools and appliances all need to be divided up
  • Who keeps your pets? this can be a very tough decision. Despite pets often feeling like family members in their own right, in the eyes of Australian Family Law they’re considered property

Many of the smaller items can have sentimental value which can make it difficult to divide them, but getting to this task early on makes it a lot easier.


Separating can entail a huge amount of time-consuming paperwork. Anything that’s in both your names will need to be changed. This could include:

  • Leases
  • Mortgages
  • Businesses
  • Bank accounts
  • Phone services
  • Government payments

If you’re unsure about changing your details on any accounts, contact your service providers.

When and where to seek help

The prospect of dividing up your entire life is daunting. If things feel overwhelming or you and your ex-partner are struggling to come to an agreement, it may be time to seek professional help.

If you find that you and your partner can’t agree on who gets to keep which property, don’t agree on division of assets, need help with child visitation and child support, disagree on who’s responsible for debt or loan repayments, or just aren’t sure how to proceed with your separation, a family mediator or lawyer can help you.

When you can’t reach consensus, a family mediator or lawyer can help with dispute resolution and facilitate the fair and legal division of assets and responsibilities. At East Law Coast Family Law we’ve helped dozens of people just like you reach amicable separation agreements. Learn more about our property and parenting law services.

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