DOOLAN WAGNER - family lawyers sydney

Separation Lawyer Sydney

Separation can be an overwhelmingly difficult time for all family members.
From organising your living situation and parenting arrangements to settling your assets, there are so many considerations and steps involved.
That's why hiring legal representation can ensure you have expert guidance and support throughout the entire separation and divorce process.

Clarifying your rights & responsibilities during separation

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers is a professional Sydney family law firm with extensive experience managing separation between partners. 

Our team of compassionate separation lawyers has worked with families from all backgrounds and thoroughly understands the laws and obligations that must be met during your separation.  

If you would like to resolve your separation matter, contact us today to get started. 

Our separation lawyers can guide you throughout the decision-making process by helping you choose how you would like to manage many of the practical aspects of your separation. This includes dividing assets to deciding where you will live and how parenting arrangements might work.

Many of these practical decisions can be difficult for couples to properly consider when emotions are heightened. This is where we can help. Our experienced separation lawyers can take you through the possible scenarios and offer practical and legal advice on achieving an amicable and favourable solution.

We can give you an assessment of how the Courts are likely to view your relationship and the factors it is likely to consider should your matter need to progress to litigation. Having this understanding and being fully prepared will help you avoid lengthy and costly legal processes where possible and give you more control over your future.

We are a firm of confident litigators who do not succumb to intimidating tactics. Our approach is always to seek a positive solution, and we are willing to hold strong for the interests of our clients if need be.

What is a legal separation?


A legal separation ends an intimate partnership through marriage or a de facto relationship. Separation is the first step spouses must take if they wish to end their marriage and get divorced — this is also the requirement for de facto couples wanting to separate. 

As one of you may have to live elsewhere, separating couples with children will need to decide which person will remain in the house, make living arrangements for their children and decide how important bills will be paid, like debts or the mortgage. 

Many couples struggle to make these decisions amongst themselves, especially if the decision to separate wasn’t amicable. A separation lawyer can ease this process and remove the stress of making these immediate decisions. 

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, we exercise great compassion in managing separation between partners, allowing you to process this new chapter of life emotionally. 

Divorce vs. Separation

While these terms may sound the same to couples ending their relationship, they are recognised differently under the eyes of the law. A separation involves a decision made by a couple, either together or by one party, to live separately. A divorce, on the other hand, is a legal termination of a marriage. 

What you need to consider when separating from your partner

It’s important to note that no documents or paperwork need to be prepared when you are separating from your partner. However, if you and your partner have decided to separate with the intention of getting divorced, you will need to make arrangements for what your separation will look like over the next 12 months. This can include: 

  • Who will continue to live in the home 
  • If you have children, where your children will live, and who will care for them 
  • How or if you and your partner will continue to support each other financially 
  • Who will pay bills, outstanding debts or other important payments, like your mortgage or rent 
  • What will happen to any joint bank or savings accounts you have 
  • Who will take ownership of the family car or other important assets  

While separation can be an emotionally intense time, couples must try to make these arrangements and resolve any issues among themselves. They should also ensure that all decisions are made based on the best interests of their children. Being able to make these decisions together can help you avoid litigation and having to take the matter to Court, which can be a costly and stressful experience. 

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers will do everything in our power to minimise the Court’s involvement in your case. We can recommend Parenting Coordination, an alternative dispute resolution process that aims to help separating parents stay out of the courtroom and make decisions amicably together. 

Eligibility for a divorce

Think of separation as a prerequisite to your divorce. Under Australian Law, for a separated couple to apply for divorce, they must be living separately for 12 months. Couples who have been married for less than two years and are seeking a divorce must also attend marriage counselling to attempt to reconcile the marriage. 

Only once these criteria have been met can you apply for divorce. 

Why would you need a lawyer for a separation agreement?

The decision to separate from your partner is generally not one made overnight. That said, weighing up your options for legal assistance is important. This is especially necessary if you and your partner struggle to agree on major decisions that affect you or any children involved in the separation. 

Separating with a lawyer

From negotiating who will cover monthly bills to deciding who will remain in the marital home, emotions run high during separation. Having qualified divorce lawyers by your side can not only ease the emotional burden, but they can provide expert advice on how to best handle your situation, explain how separation works under Australian law and negotiate or fight on your behalf if the matter goes to Court. 

We have been practising Family Law for several years and have developed a reputation for helping couples of all backgrounds. This level of experience allows us to provide our clients with tailored advice. 

Our family law team will provide assessments on how we believe the Court will view your relationship and inform you of factors that may be an issue for your case. This ensures you will be fully prepared should your case go to Court. 

Separating without a lawyer

Many separating couples choose to move forward with their separation without seeking legal assistance. While we’ve seen some couples successfully negotiate among themselves, this is not always the case. Finances, children’s welfare, and property ownership all come into play during a separation, not to mention the process is highly unfamiliar for most Australian families. 

Separating under one roof

Couples looking to separate with the intention of divorce must live separately for 12 months before they can submit their divorce application. However, special circumstances can make this difficult, for instance, if you or your partner are experiencing financial hardship or both care for a child with special needs. In such cases, you can be separated from your partner while living under the same roof. 

As this can make proving the separation date difficult, it’s recommended that you speak to a separation lawyer who can advise you on your obligations to ensure your divorce application runs smoothly once the separation period ends. 

Are you in a de facto relationship?

In Australia, more people are choosing to live together without getting married. When you separate, how your relationship is defined can significantly impact how your property and assets might be divided and whether spousal maintenance can be applied. 

With de facto relationships being treated increasingly like marriages and the court having the capacity to make determinations, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities. By consulting with a separation lawyer in Sydney, you can confidently navigate through your separation and ensure the process is handled fairly. 

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers has expert knowledge of how the Court manages de facto separations and can provide detailed information on factors that impact your case. 

To determine whether you are in a de facto relationship, read our article on the key criteria that defines what a defacto relationship is by law.  


Separation: Important points to remember

No two matters are the same 

We understand that no two matters are the same. We will assess your particular circumstances and provide you with tailored legal advice to move forward with confidence. 

Early specialist advice can be an invaluable investment 

Having the benefit of early specialist legal advice from one of our experienced separation lawyers will help you gain a good understanding of how best to protect all your interests moving forward. 

Staying in control during your separation is critical 

We ensure that you stay in control of your matter by mapping out all reasonable options and guiding you every step of the way.  Staying in control during separation will mean that you obtain the best possible final outcome for you and your family. 

Keeping level-headed and on track can set you apart 

We understand that separation can be an emotionally difficult time, particularly in circumstances that involve children or complex property settlements. This is where we step in.  We help you stay well on top of your matter by ensuring that you fully understand all possible options, rights and obligations. This will help you stay level-headed and on track.  Knowing what to expect and how best to navigate challenges keeps you on the right path. 

Plan, plan and plan 

Our aim is to help you achieve a tailored and favourable outcome in an efficient manner. Every day, we advise clients in relation to their options, rights and obligations during and after separation. Given that we are experts in this field, we can quickly identify the important aspects of your matters and help you secure a quick and favourable outcome. 

Take a look at our Separation Checklist to see all the steps required to guarantee you are prepared for your separation. 

The Sydney Family Lawyers That Advocate for You

You don’t have to go through the separation process alone. 

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, we specialise in guiding you through the complex and emotional landscape of separation and divorce. 

As one of the leading family law firms in Sydney, our accredited team provides compassionate and tailored advice to safeguard your rights and responsibilities. We’ll help you make informed decisions on asset division, child custody, and financial obligations, always aiming to minimise court involvement. We have experience in a diverse range of complex family law matters such as child custody, property settlement, de facto relationships, and much more. 

If you want effective legal representation for your separation case, speak to our family lawyers today for expert advice and a helping hand through your journey. 

We are more than just lawyers; we are your advocates in this pivotal chapter of your life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the first steps involved in the separation process between couples?

Separation is widely recognised to be one of the major stresses that anyone can face. It is second only to facing the death of a loved one. Taking the time to gather your thoughts and then seeking good advice before you do or say anything is crucial. Once this is underway, you are better equipped to decide what is the best path ahead for you. 

How do I separate the right way?

Separation takes its toll on every aspect of your life. It’s therefore important to: 

  1. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and seek help if you are slipping. 
  2. Remember to keep your children’s best interests foremost in your mind. 
  3. Be realistic that it is likely to take some time before everything will be sorted out, and you will be able to move forward with confidence. 
  4. Reassess your expectations. You separated for a reason, so things are likely to be different. Expecting the same will only lead to disappointment. 
What is there to know about the separation process?

Initially, the best thing to know is where to go for help. Choosing the right separation or divorce lawyer for you can make a big difference to the outcome of your matter. Knowing what questions to ask is also really important. Write a list of questions for your lawyer so you leave the meeting fully informed. 

What should I avoid during the separation process?

It’s very tempting to rely on friends for advice when times get tough. However, don’t mistake your friend’s opinion for sound and reliable family law advice. Trying to manage the fallout of a separation yourself is probably short-sighted. In brief, don’t think that you need to go through it alone. 

Will separation from my partner end up badly?

Nearly all separation law matters are settled without the need for a final hearing in the Court. Litigation should be considered as a last resort for most families. With the help of a good collaborative family lawyer, you can reach a sensible and workable agreement with your ex most of the time. 

How can I stay in control during the separation process?

Five of the best things that you can do include: 

  1. Get expert advice early. 
  2. Gather all the facts and documents. 
  3. Stay focused on the outcome you want to achieve, and don’t get side-lined by distractions. 
  4. Balance this challenge with your day-to-day life. 
  5. Ask questions if you are unsure what the “next steps” are. 
What will I tell the kids when I intend to separate from my wife, husband or partner?

Choosing the right time to tell your children that you are separating can almost be as important as what you actually say to them. When the opportunity presents itself, keep the message simple. Avoid blaming the other parent and provide lots of reassurance. Having a plan, even for the immediate future, can be comforting for children at this time. 

What will the separation process cost?

Separation and divorce can be expensive. Getting the best advice upfront can help you save thousands of dollars. We offer a no-obligation fixed fee initial consultation. Every one of our clients reports back to us that the meeting with us was invaluable. Your children and your finances are two of the most important things in the world. A relatively small investment initially can make a big difference to the outcome in the end. 

My partner and I have split up, and I want to move interstate / overseas with my kids. And what about travel? Do I need my partner’s permission?

The short answer is yes. 

There are laws in Australia regarding relocating with children. These laws apply even if there are no formal Court Orders that govern any agreement you and your former partner may have reached regarding parenting. Therefore, if you want to move overseas or interstate with your children, this should be discussed and negotiated with your former partner. 

Moving overseas or interstate falls under the umbrella of “parental responsibility” as it is a major long-term decision that will impact your children. If there is no agreement, you may be required to file a relocation Application in the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court. 

Additionally, if you and your partner have separated, it is best to ask for their permission to take your children interstate or overseas, even if it is only for a short holiday. Providing your partner with notice and an itinerary of travel will assist in reducing any fears your partner has that you may not return the children and is also a good co-parenting approach. 

If you intend to relocate or travel with your children without the other parent’s permission, you should seek legal advice prior to doing so. 

If your children are taken overseas or interstate without your consent, you should seek legal advice immediately. 

Do I still have to pay child support even though the kids are living with the other parent?

Yes, you do. Whether or not the children live with you or the other parent, both of you are responsible for the financial support of your children. The amount that would be payable, however, is largely dependent upon the number of nights that the children spend with each parent, as well as the parent’s respective incomes. 

With respect to meeting this obligation, you or the other parent can obtain an Administrative Assessment from Services Australia (formerly the Child Support Agency) or, alternatively, reach a private agreement amongst yourselves. Should you wish to document this agreement, a Child Support Agreement can be prepared, which is registered with Services Australia and sometimes with the Court. Such an Agreement can include not only periodic child support but also outline how you both will meet non-periodic payments (for example, in relation to the children’s extra-curricular activities, private health insurance, school fees and the like). 

Do I have a right to see my children?

In Australia, the short answer is that you do not have any right grounded in law to see your children. Family law in Australia, governed largely by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”), adopts a child-centric approach, focusing on the rights of your children and your responsibilities to your children as a parent rather than your rights as a parent. 

Your children have a right to enjoy a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. This will usually involve your children spending time with each parent. However, there is no rule, presumption or “starting point” that your children will spend equal or “50:50” time with each of their parents. 

Furthermore, the paramount consideration of the Court in determining a parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of your children is to protect your children from harm or being subjected to or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence. 

You have responsibilities for your children. However, you do not have a right to see or spend time with your children. Your children have a right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents if it is safe for them to do so, and they will not be at risk of harm. 

When should you consult a separation lawyer?

If you decide to separate from your spouse or partner, you should seek legal assistance from a family lawyer as soon as possible. This is especially important if children are involved, as decisions regarding their living arrangements must be made. A separation lawyer can explain and manage your rights and responsibilities during your separation and begin preparations for your divorce. 

Why does the date I separated from someone matter?

The date of separation tells a court you have met the grounds for a divorce and have been living under different roofs for 12 months. This is usually documented through an affidavit. 

Do I still need to pay the mortgage if I have moved out of our home?

This will depend on your arrangements with your mortgage lender and partner. If both of your names are listed on the loan agreement, you each have an obligation to make the monthly payments, regardless of whether you live in the home. 

What happens to the children after separation?

This is up to you and your partner to decide. Following your separation and impending divorce, parents must decide who will be the primary carer of the children, who they will live with and other crucial lifestyle factors. The bottom line is that any decision must be made with their best interests in mind. 

Does separation affect my Will?

No, separation does not impact your Will, and the terms remain the same. If you now have different intentions about how your assets will be distributed, you will need to document them in a new Will. 

Find out how our separation lawyers can help you

Personalised advice with no obligation