This section is about stages of separation, how separation can affect people, what you will need to consider and some immediate decisions you may need to make. It provides links to places you can seek assistance and legal advice about your situation.

Stages of separation

Separation is a major step for everyone. It's a time when you need help and information. Most people admit feeling the worst they have ever felt in their life. Grief, where you feel the loss of an important part of your life, may be the reason for this. If you separate, you may experience the following different stages of grief:

  • shock and denial that it is really happening
  • anger and blaming your former partner or another person
  • sadness and depression
  • moving forward – acceptance and adjustment to your new life.

Talking to friends and family can help you sort out your feelings. Trained help may assist you and your children cope better with the changes.

Moving at a different pace

Separation affects everyone differently. You and your former partner may move through the stages of separation at a different pace, feeling different things at different times. For example, one of you may be starting to accept the separation while the other is still feeling angry.

What you need to consider

If you separate, you and your former partner will need to make some immediate decisions about practical issues concerning your children and your assets. You may not be able to agree on all these things at the time of separation, but it can greatly help you and your family if you try to reach a temporary agreement. You can use the facilities of the Family Relationship Centres, if there is one in your area, or other community-based services to reach an agreement. It is a good idea to get legal advice.

Some of the things you need to consider are:

  • where your children live and who will take care of them
  • how you and your former partner will support yourselves and your children
  • what, how and when you will tell the children, other family members and friends
  • who will pay outstanding bills or debts
  • who will stay in the house
  • how will the rent or mortgage be paid
  • what will happen to any joint bank, building society or credit union accounts
  • what will happen to the house, car, furniture and other property.

Getting help

Talking to friends and family can help you sort out your feelings. There is also trained help available that can assist you and your children cope better with the changes. Some of the services available are:

  • Family Relationship Centres. To find a centre near you, or to find out about other services in your area, call 1800 050 321 or visit Family Relationships Online
  • Reconciliation counselling may help you understand more about your feelings and help you decide whether to stay together or not.
  • Separation counselling or mediation may help you to sort out any problems you have about settling your arrangements if you decide to separate.
  • Legal advice may help you understand the law relating to family disputes and help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities.
  • Legal information is widely available on the Internet and in public libraries.
  • In the Getting Help section of this website, services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has information on services for Indigenous communities and links to Aboriginal Legal Centres.
  • In the Getting Help section of this website, services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has information on services for Indigenous communities and links to Aboriginal Legal Centres.
  • In the Getting Help section of this website, services for ethnic communities has information on translation and interpreter services for ethnic communities.
  • In the Getting Help section of this website, services for ethnic communities has information on translation and interpreter services for ethnic communities.
  • Child Support Agency
  • Centrelink/Family Assistance Office