The separation and divorce process in Victoria

Are you considering ending your relationship? Regardless of whether you are in a de facto or married relationship, in most cases, separation means a great deal of emotional turmoil coupled with a lot of questions around logistics and process.

In Victoria, a couple is considered to have separated if they are no longer living together in a relationship. Although most couples will choose to live separately, a couple can be considered to have separated even if they still live under the same roof. In this instance, they are considered separated if they no longer function as a couple, for example, not sharing a bed, eating together or splitting household chores.

Although you may be experiencing shock, grief or anger in the initial stages of separation, seeking the advice of a family lawyer is invaluable in ensuring you aware of your rights and responsibilities. Your family lawyer can also provide understanding and clarity about the process should your separation prove to be permanent.

Things you may wish to discuss with your lawyer at this point include:

  • Living arrangements for yourself and children – both short and longer term.
  • Support and care of any children.
  • Financial aspects such as property settlement, management of joint bank accounts, payment of debts, division of assets.
  • The process to be followed if separation is to be followed by divorce.
  • Changes to your will, life insurance and superannuation beneficiaries.

It should be noted that separation in itself does not require any formalisation process or documentation.  There are, however, some organisations that should be notified of the change to your relationship status.  If you receive benefits or require financial support you should notify Centrelink that your circumstances have changed and the date on which the separation occurred. This date will also be relevant to formal divorce and settlement processes should they occur.

Your collaborative family lawyer will be able to provide you with specific advice regarding any other steps you need to take or parties that you should contact regarding your change in relationship status.  This may include notifying your bank, changing utility bills from joint to single account holders and updating contact details at your children’s schools.

If after 12 months of living separately (even if under the same roof) and with no likelihood of reconciliation, under Australian Law you and your spouse may divorce.  For those ending a de facto relationship, you have two years in which to finalise the financial and property division process. Should you wish to take this step, your collaborative family law specialist can assist with this process.

Further professional help can be invaluable when going through the process of separation. The collaborative law process recognizes that support from collaboratively trained professionals such as psychologists and financial planners can be invaluable support during separation. Working together as a team, collaborative professionals can help provide you with clarity and a way forward during what is a stressful and confusing time.


At Umbrella Family Law, we have supported many clients to make sense of the confusion and turmoil felt when ending a relationship.  With offices covering all parts of Melbourne and serving clients across Victoria, we can help you start your new life.