How To Separate in Preparation for Divorce

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When couples are unhappy within their relationship, they often decide to try separating to take time to think and make a sound decision about whether to proceed with formally ending their marriage or de facto relationship. The interesting aspect of separation is that there are no specific legal requirements couples must engage in with regard to separating for the purpose of divorce. However, there are some common steps that couples often take to draw new boundaries that represent their desire to no longer be considered a couple.

Some of these actions include;

  • Living apart
  • Separating their finances
  • Changing their access to each other’s social media accounts and/or emails
  • No longer engaging in physical intimacy
  • Telling family and friends that they are separating

If married couples are certain that they want to enter the process of divorce, they can opt for a one-year separation period and a no-fault divorce proceeding. In these cases, the date of separation is important and should be discussed, agreed upon and noted. During the one-year separation period, a couple can still live together. While this might not be ideal, it is often necessary for financial reasons and for consistent childcare. 

Therefore, if a couple must remain under a single roof, they should take some steps to show that their separation is serious, and they intend to divorce. These actions include;

  • Setting yourselves up in separate bedrooms
  • No longer attending events and family functions as a couple, unless children from the marriage require the presence of both parents
  • Keeping all your shopping, cooking, and cleaning separate from one another
  • Informing family and friends that you are separated
  • No longer engaging in any form of physical intimacy
  • Maintaining separate social media accounts and emails
  • Using separate means for individual financial support

If a couple maintains these boundaries which represent a true separation, the Court will then use this time apart and change of circumstances as evidence that the couple intended to end their relationship and proceed with a formal divorce. In addition, the Court will use the approximate time that the couple made these significant changes to their relationship to determine the legal date of separation. While this is not an exact science, the Court will take the time frame within which all these changes were put into place, as a guide for identifying the final date of separation so that the couple can move forward with a formal divorce proceeding.

In the event that a couple separates and then decides to give their relationship or marriage another try, it is important for the couple to understand the ramifications of breaking down the boundaries they put into place during their trial separation. The amount of time a couple reconciles is very important.

  1. If a couple reunites for less than three months and then separates again, the Court will allow the time period of the first separation and the second separation to be added together to equal a single twelve-month period
  2. If a couple reunites for more than three months, the Court will often find that the previous separation time is null and void. Should the couple decide to separate again, the one-year time frame will start to run anew

In addition to the time frame, the court would look to see if the couple resumed living together, sharing finances, attending events as a couple, resumed their physical relationship and held themselves out as a couple to their family and friends, again. If the Court believes the couple genuinely intended to reunite, the Court may require the separation period to start over again from the second point at which the couple separated. Therefore, it is very important for couples to carefully consider the seriousness of their choice to attempt to reconcile prior to taking that step.

Leaving a long-term relationship and/or marriage is very difficult. For many, the decision is not clear cut and therefore there is often some period of leaving the relationship and returning to it to gain insight and certainty before proceeding with divorce. However, once a couple is certain that they do not intend to reconcile, it is best for all involved if clear changes and boundaries are set up to support their separation.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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