Separation is when you and your partner stop living together in a domestic or marriage-like relationship. Both people do not need to agree to end the relationship before you can separate.

The date that separation started, and when you stopped living together, can be important to know if you want to apply for a property settlement or divorce.

Quick Answers Video: Separation and divorce
video fact sheet icon Download the fact sheet for this video

This information will help you to understand more about separation.  Find out:

  • what you have to do to be separated
  • how long you have to be separated before you can apply for certain things in the Family Court, and
  • what happens if you still live in the same house with your former partner.

What do I have to do to be legally separated?

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 to separate or end the relationship. At least one of you needs to make a decision to separate, act on that decision and tell the other person. You do not need to do anything in particular for your separation to have started.

If you separate from someone, whether it was a marriage or de facto relationship, you and your former partner will need to start making decisions about the practical arrangements for your children and finances.

Some things will need to be sorted out quickly, even if they are only temporary arrangements while you both discuss what will happen in the future. Services like family dispute resolution can be useful to help you work through issues and make decisions together.

Why does the date I separated from someone matter?

Proving that your relationship has ended, and the date you separated, is important for when applying for property orders or applying for a divorce, as there are time limits or waiting periods that apply to those applications.

There are no time limits or waiting times that apply before you can start a parenting case in the Family Court, including applying for consent orders, for both married and de facto couples. There may be other things you must do before you can start a parenting case. 

What if the relationship has ended, but I still live in the same house with my former partner?

This is called separation under the one roof.

If you were living under the same roof as your former partner for part of the time you claim you have been separated, the Family Court may ask for more evidence about your separation during that time. This is commonly an issue where someone is applying for a divorce and part of the minimum 12 months of separation includes time when they were living in the same house, whether it was only for a few days, weeks or months.

Extra information about the separation must be provided by the person applying for a divorce (both people if it is a joint application), and also from an independent person. Each person who needs to give extra information must put their evidence in a separate affidavit and should come to the court hearing in case the court would like to ask them for more information.

The information in the affidavit should explain how and when your relationship changed, to show that it has ended. For example:

  • you no longer sleep in the same room
  • you have divided or separated assets and money
  • you have stopped doing household duties for each other
  • you prepare and eat meals separately
  • you no longer go out or entertain friends together, and
  • you have told family and friends about the separation.


More information


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.