If you and/or your spouse or partner decide to separate, you can enter into a Separation Agreement. Married couples or civil union partners may also decide to apply for a separation order from the Family Court (see How to obtain a separation order).
A couple intending to separate has access to free, confidential counselling through the Family Court. You should contact the Family Court Co-ordinator at your nearest Family Court. The counselling is available whether you are married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship.
If the break-up of the relationship has already come before the Family Court in some way - for example, if you've applied for a parenting order for day-to-day care of the children - the court will encourage you and your spouse or partner to attend counselling to attempt to reach some agreement on important issues. Any decisions reached can be formalised in a separation agreement.
A separation agreement is a legally enforceable contract, except that -
A separation agreement may be oral or in writing.
You may wish to register your agreement with the Family Court, in which case it becomes enforceable in the same way as a court order and not merely as a legal contract.
The agreement will also provide good evidence of the fact that a separation has taken place for the purposes of an application for a dissolution of the marriage or civil union (see How to obtain a dissolution of marriage or civil union).
Strictly speaking a separation agreement is one whereby a couple agree to live apart, but it could also provide for -
If the agreement deals with the division of relationship property, it will, if it's valid, override the provisions of the PROPERTY (RELATIONSHIPS) ACT. However, to be valid the agreement must satisfy certain strict requirements:
For more information, see How to: The division of property when a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship ends and How to enter into a property agreement.
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