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What is separation?

Separation is when you and your partner stop living together in a domestic or marriage-like relationship.

You and your partner do not need to agree for separation to happen. At least one of you needs to make a decision to separate, act on that decision and tell the other person.

You might need to be able to show that you have separated, and when you separated, for example, if you want a divorce. The date of separation may also be relevant in property settlement proceedings.

What is separation under the one roof?

Separation under the one roof is where you and your partner have separated but have continued to live in the same house. If you need to demonstrate to the Family Court that you were separated while living under the same roof (for example if you want to seek a Divorce), the court may require you and/or your former spouse to provide an affidavit (sworn or affirmed written statement) for the court as well as an affidavit from an independent witness (for example a friend, family member or neighbour).

If you file an affidavit from an independent witness, that person should attend the court hearing in case the court would like to ask them for further information.

The types of things which might show that you and your former spouse have separated could include:

  • you no longer sleep in the same room
  • finances have been separated
  • a decline in carrying out household duties for each other
  • you prepare and eat meals separately
  • you no longer go out together or entertain friends together
  • you have told family and friends of the separation

For further information, see the Family Court of WA brochure Separated, but living under one roof.

Is there any difference if I was in a de facto relationship (including a same-sex relationship) or I was married?

The concept of separation is the same whether you were married or in a de facto relationship (which includes same-sex relationships). In de facto relationships separation is called "when the relationship ended". For either de facto relationships or marriages, you might need to have proof to show when the separation occurred.

For de facto relationships, the date you separated is the starting date for working out how long you have to settle any property issues you have with your former partner, through the Family Court of WA. See Dividing property - de facto couples.

For marriages, the date of separation is the starting date for the 12 month separation period you need to show in order to apply for a divorce. For more information, see Divorce.

What do I have to do to be legally separated?

You do not need to do anything in particular for your separation to be legal. You might have to prove that you have separated and the date you separated in the future, for example, in an application for a divorce.

Where can I get help if I would like to try to work things out with my former partner?

A range of services are available to you and your former partner to see if you might be able to work things out and reconcile or get back together. Family counselling services and family dispute resolution providers might be able to help you.  

Where can I get more information?

  • Go to the When Separating website. Here you will find short films about family law and other helpful information and links for families experiencing separation
  • Contact the Legal Aid InfoLine on 1300 650 579, which can provide information on family law, where to get help if you would like to work things out with your former partner, and your next steps if you will not be reconciling
  • Contact the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 
  • Go to the Family Relationships website where you can search for services including registered family dispute resolution providers


Last reviewed: 16/02/2015 

Last modified:


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.