Separation & Divorce

The end of a relationship is confronting but we are here to help you through the legal aspects of separation. We are a leading family law firm on the North Coast of New South Wales with accredited family lawyers and over 50 years of accumulated knowledge and family law experience.

The Family Law Act 1975

The Family Law Act governs matters relating to the care of children and the distribution of property after a relationship breakdown. It applies to marriages and de facto relationships including same sex amarriages and de facto relationships.

A de facto relationship is defined by a number of characteristics outlined in the Family Law Act including the length and nature of the relationship, financial dependence or interdependence, the care and support of children, or whether the relationship was registered under state law. In some cases, you may first need to prove that you were in a de facto relationship before accessing a remedy under the Family Law Act and our team can help you with that process.

Applying for a divorce

A divorce is the legal end of a marriage and, in Australia, is a separate process to settling your financial affairs or parenting arrangements.

An application for divorce is made through the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on the basis that a marriage has irretrievably broken down with no reasonable prospects of the parties getting back together. A couple must have been separated for 12 months before making a divorce application however this does not necessarily mean that you and your ex-partner must be living in separate dwellings.

Consent of both parties is not required however if you have children under the age of 18 years, the Court must be satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place for their care. In most cases, you will not need to appear in Court to have your divorce finalised. Generally, a divorce will be finalised approximately one month after the divorce hearing takes place.

It is important to note that after a divorce has been granted, there is a 12-month limitation period within which to bring court proceedings for a property settlement or spousal maintenance.

Practical steps after separating from your partner

If you have newly separated, life will be very different, and it may be difficult to work through some of the practical aspects of separation. Below is a checklist that you may find helpful.

  • Try to put differences aside when it comes to your children. The Court’s approach to parenting matters will always be that the children’s best interests are paramount and, in most cases, a meaningful relationship with both parents will be encouraged.
  • Prepare a list of assets and liabilities – real and personal property, bank accounts, insurance policies, superannuation, credit cards, loan accounts, etc.
  • Obtain originals or copies of important documents such as passports, marriage certificates and birth certificates.
  • Maintain insurance cover over assets such as your home, other real estate, motor vehicles, boats, etc.
  • Protect your privacy and update passwords and login details for email and social media accounts, online and mobile banking.
  • Discuss your situation with your bank – you may need to close accounts, open new ones, ensure that two signatories are required to operate joint accounts, place a hold on credit cards and limits, etc.
  • Contact Centrelink to find out if you are eligible for financial assistance.
  • Keep written records of important dates, events, etc.
  • Get legal advice to protect your interests and so you understand your rights.

Updating your Will after separation or divorce

If you have separated from your spouse or de facto partner, it is important to review and update your Will or make a Will if you do not already have one. Certain changes in your circumstances may mean that an existing Will no longer reflects your testamentary wishes. You may wish to revise who you have appointed as your executor and the beneficiaries included in your Will. If there has been a property settlement, certain assets may no longer be available for distribution after you die. Receiving legal advice about your Will after separating helps to provide certainty and security for your loved ones after you are gone.


Arranging your affairs after a relationship breakdown is a stressful and challenging process. We are compassionate and understanding, but most importantly, we know the law and we know how to protect the rights of you and your family. We listen, we act, and we keep you informed throughout each step of your family law matter.

If you need assistance, contact us at [email protected] or call 02 6622 5566 for expert legal advice.