Separated Couples Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts

Parting ways from your partner can be extremely difficult particularly in the early days of separation. As a family lawyer, it is not our role to advocate for divorce or separation, we are simply here to assist you to manage the end of your relationship.

We understand it is a challenging time so it’s important to consider our recommendations:


Do seek counselling
Separation is a life-changing event and counselling is highly recommended. You may find it beneficial to seek counselling prior to separation to confirm your relationship has broken down and to navigate the emotional rollercoaster that separation is.

We recommend:
Speak with a lawyer as early as possible. This will allow you to become aware of how the law applies to your situation and make informed decisions.

Do gather your documents
In any property matter, one of the first things a lawyer will ask you to do is to provide documentation relating to your financial circumstances. Under the Family Law Rules you have an obligation to disclose your financial circumstances to your partner, and in addition to this, your lawyer needs to be able to identify the assets and liabilities to advise you as to the appropriate division of your assets.

We recommend: Save yourself some time and money and collate this documentation prior and provide it to your lawyer as soon as you can.

Do consider mediation
Unless you are in the situation where there is family violence or your matter is particularly urgent you should consider mediation. The Family Law Act requires you to attend mediation in the matter of care arrangements of children. We also recommend that all clients consider and attend upon mediation in property matters. If you can in some way mediate with your partner, your matter can be resolved in a far more timely and less expensive manner.

We recommend: Be guided by your lawyer as to the alternate ways to resolve your conflict, court is not and should not be the preferred option considering a round table and/or mediation will help you prioritise issues and establish real options at a reduced cost.

Do find a lawyer who is right for you
There are a number of different ways to resolve family law disputes. Not only should you be comfortable with their experience and competency in Family Law but also their approach and personality.

We recommend: During your initial consultation with your lawyer, be sure to discuss the different approaches available and ascertain their view on your circumstances.


Don’t berate your partner by text, email or on social media
We have a saying in our office “dance like nobody is watching, text and email like it will be read in Court someday”. You, your friends, or your family should not use Facebook or other forms of social media to disparage the other party in your proceedings. The Family Law Act makes it an offence to publish any account of proceedings or an image which identifies a party or child involved in Family Law proceedings. You can bet your bottom dollar that any texts, emails or social media posts that you have engaged in with your partner will find their way into an Affidavit and be the subject of consideration by the Court at a later date.

Tip: Don’t write while emotional.  Think before you type and try to maintain a business-like approach.

Don’t deplete funds from bank accounts, sell or transfer the ownership of assets
Unless agreed or under the direction of the Court you should not withdraw large sums of money from the bank account. Not only will you be expected to provide disclosure of where the money and assets have gone, the Court can also find that you have wasted the assets of the relationship or add them back to the pool in circumstances where you have depleted them unnecessarily.

The Court also has power under section 106B of the Family Law Act to set aside any transaction that is designed to defeat your partner’s claim. For example if you decide to transfer a piece of real estate to your brother for $1, the Family Court has the power to undo such transaction.

Tip: You should not dispose of any assets, for example gifting a home or a car to a friend or selling something at a reduced price. You should also not suddenly decide to buy a very expensive item in an attempt to reduce the value of the asset pool.

Don’t listen to everyone else’s advice on what will happen
Every matter is different and each person’s circumstances vary, there is no “one size fits all” solution to Family Law.

Tip: Getting correct advice that considers your history and your current and future needs is imperative.

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