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Whether you have to actually do something to be officially or legally separated, is one of the most common questions people have after their marriage or de facto relationship (including same sex relationships) have broken up.
There is no official or legal document you can complete to say that you are separated and no longer a couple.
If you receive Centrelink benefits, or you will need to apply for financial assistance through Centrelink, then you will need to tell Centrelink of your separation.
Your separation occurs when you decide your relationship is over, when you communicate this to your partner and you stop living together as a couple. If your separation wasn't a joint decision, then you must have told your former spouse of your decision that the relationship is over and that you consider you both to be separated and no longer a couple.
You may move out of the house or you may need to stay living in the house and so be "separated under the one roof".
If you are married, then our fact sheet about the requirements to divorce includes a list of the factors a court will look at to consider whether you are validly separated although still living together under the same roof. This includes things like:
There is a lot you need to think about and do after you have separated, which can be a bit overwhelming. Don't try to do everything at once. Take it step by step.
Tackle one thing at a time and get a priority order happening of what is most important. It is important to get started though and sooner rather than later if you have already separated.
You might be thinking about separating and some helpful planning could also make things easier for you later. After separation, you will think, what next. What things do you need to do and sort out in relation to your children, your finances and your property.
If you have children then you will need to talk to the children and you will have to agree on the arrangements for their care. If the children will be living with you, then there are documents and items you will need to make sure you keep with you.
We have a fact sheet which gives you a thorough to do list for child related issues and arrangements after separation.
You will also need to make sure you have control over your own finances, consider or re-establish where money is coming from, where money is going to, what money can and can't be accessed, what safeguards need to be put in place, what financial documents you need to gather together and that's just to start with.
To help give you a list you can tackle step by step, read our financial and property to do list fact sheet.
There is also an almost never ending list of minor and practical things you need to do, like changing your Medicare card, passwords on accounts etc.
To make sure you don't miss anything, we have a fact sheet giving an exhaustive list of all the practical and miscellaneous things you might not think of otherwise, or until it is too late.
You do not have to go it alone after your relationship breaks down. You can and should ask for help and support from your family and friends.
There is also a lot of professional help you can access, some of which you can access free of charge. It will be easier for you to do all the things you need to, to take care of yourself and your family, as well as to cope with the effects of separation after your relationship breakdown if you are able to get help.
Breaking up is hard. It is emotional, traumatic and probably one of the hardest things you will ever have to go through. Personal, Family or Relationship Counselling might help you or your family.
If you don't know a Counsellor you can find one through:
Centrelink have a Financial Information Service you can contact to find out how your changed circumstances will affect payments you are receiving or might be able to receive.
You might also need to contact the Child Support Agency about receiving or making Child Support Payments.
Read more about Child Support payments in our child support section.
You might need to adjust to a change in income and living standards. It could be helpful for you to prepare a budget. You can prepare a budget yourself or find a budget planner online.
Financial counselling is also offered as a free service through community organisations and some government agencies.
You can contact your local community legal service to get free legal advice.
We have a separate fact sheet you should read since you should also review your Will and Power of Attorney as well as who the beneficiaries are of your Superannuation and Life Insurance Policies.
You can read our fact sheet The Stages of Separation: How it will affect you & your former partner to help you understand what you or your spouse goes through emotionally after separation and how that might affect negotiating ability.
If you own houses, buildings or land with your former spouse, then read how that is affected in our fact sheet How does Separation & Relationship Breakdown affect Jointly Owned Property.
Make sure you know what time limits are applicable to you which is answered in our fact sheet Separation time limits after Relationship Breakdown.
It is important to read our fact sheet How does Separation & Relationship Breakdown affect my Will, family after your death, Superannuation & Life Insurance.
If you have a list of things you need to do and can follow, that can be helpful. See the following checklists we have prepared for you:
Michelle Beatty, Senior Lawyer
Other Questions answered in the Separation & Relationship Breakdown Section
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