I just separated with my partner what do I do next checklist for separation or divorce parents

Separation Checklist

Before you resort to law, there are alternative mediation services if you are separating and need assistance

there is hope

  • Above all else, stay calm and do not panic or overreact; this is one of the most common reasons people get themselves into deeper trouble. If there’s one thing any veteran who’s been through this will tell you, almost nothing is really as urgent as you probably think it is day one, and these things tend to slow down after an initial burst and unfold progressively and slowly. Breathe, take your time and assess carefully your next steps.

  • Reach out to us and other positive support services. With us, you’re talking with dads and mums who’ve been through it we know where you are, how you’re feeling and often how best to navigate your way through the challenges you’re facing. You’re amongst friends. No need to convince us of what you’re experiencing.

recently separated dad
I'm a recently separated dad, what do I do next.
recently separated mum
I'm a recently separated mum, what do I do next?
  • Fact is, positive outcomes really do occur all the time if you learn to focus and you follow through and do the right things. We’ll help you with that. We help you put your situation into perspective and assist you to focus on the best way through the challenges that you are facing. We provide you with options and insights, and the wisdom of those that have been there before you. With us, there’s always hope.

  • Each year we get hundreds of messages from grateful mums and dads who have managed to turn around their situations with our help, and we’re here to help you too. Its free, there’s no catch and no need to book or prepare – just reach out, join up or turn up!


  • Its sad that we have to say it but, yes, false allegations occur a lot in family separation. In every high conflict family situation, legal or otherwise, there are three sides to each story – yours, theirs and the truth. Point being, if everyone always told the truth, there’d be no disagreement over the facts and therefore, no conflict. Add into that equation an adversarial (evidence testing) family law system and you see how things that are not true can get throw into the equation in an effort to gain advantage. It’s not how it should be but it happens.

  • In our experience, both mums and dads can and do make false allegations in equal measure in order to gain the upper hand. You can read one retiring family court judges views on the matter here. We also reference some of the official research in policy section 5 (page 7) of our position document here. What you will find there is that 74% of QLD magistrates have said they’ve witnessed vexatious (false) AVO’s and that in NSW, the numbers were over 90% having witnessed them, nearly 60% seeing them occasionally and 10% of magistrates saying that over half of all AVO’s were vexatious (false). Bottom line, we do not know the exact numbers but we can see from this that the issue is very real and that it happens quite a bit.

court orders and avos for separated parents
Before accusing your ex, think of how your actions will affect your children.
false accusation with a custody battle
  • If you’re on the receiving end of false allegations, particularly extreme ones, it’s hard to understand how that is allowed to occur and to worry about the shame of them being shared with others. This is normal but you can’t let it stop you from doing what is right for yourself and for your children.

  • Know such allegations for what they are, strategic maneuvering to gain legal advantage and little more. They are an attempt to derail the trajectory of and to delay the legal case and to attempt short term legal dominance.

  • The good news is that in the long term, false allegations usually do not work – family court outcomes suggest that most such allegations are eventually overturned. Hard to see at the beginning but that is why speaking with those that have done this in the past really can help out it all into perspective.

  • The secret is not to make it worse in the meantime by overreacting; that means lashing out against yourself or the other party and it also means not walking away.

  • Dealing with false allegations can be a little like sinking in quicksand; the more you struggle, the worse it can get. Stay calm, reach out to us and we’ll help you work you way through the challenge one step at a time. Take it slow and in stages. Do not expect it will all be overturned at the first opportunity; sometimes judges want to see how this unfolds over a longer period to assess patterns of behaviour. Understand this because if you push too hard, you may find it suggests that there is something here to hide.

  • If you’re worried what others might think, send them over to here to read these notes so that they can be better informed. It’s really quite a common phenomena in family law cases these days, so you’re far from alone.


  • Managing your expectations is key to surviving the hardest times. If each time something bad happens, your expectation is that it will immediately be corrected, then there is a good chance that you’ll be greatly disappointed. This saps your energy and will to go on. Expect that these things are complex, move slowly and that overall, it tends to work out well in the long term.

  • The world in general and certainly something as complex as family breakdown and family law does not work fast and its not always easy to see the logic of the decisions made when you’re in a highly emotive state.

  • The legal wheels move slowly but thats no reason to give up hope, rather it’s a very good reason and opportunity to start working on a medium to long term strategy versus expecting quick fixes. Quick fixes happen but they are rare.

  • Its normal to feel angry if you’ve been wronged but use that in a constructive way, not in a destructive way that makes you spiral down. Our helpline operators and groups are great at helping you do this.

fighting in front of your child during separation and its affects on the childs future
Never fight in front of your children. Not even passive aggressive insults.
keeping fit after a separation
  • A common and easy exercise is to list off all your challenges under the headings of (1) things I can control, (2) things I can influence and (3) things I have no control over. When you’ve done that, work on the items in (1), work on developing your approach to the items in (2) and think of not wasting time, energy and emotion on items in list (3). Set realistic expectations and timescales, and you’re a long way towards managing your situation in the best way.

  • Lastly, it really helps to keep fit, to eat well, get out and to get into or keep at your normal daily routine; think about the time you get up, eat, go to bed, how and when you work. All these things in a daily routine help keep you sane and healthy and ensure that you’re the same parent that your kids remember when they get back with you again.

  • Of course, all the above is the kind of thing we can help you with so drop us a line and/or attend a group.


  • These situations can sometimes take a long time to resolve and its easy to lose track of what is happening, why, when, how and who was involved. The sooner you start to do this the easier it is to get your facts straight when you might be asked about what has happened.

  • Use a diary with a full ‘day to a page’ format and get used to writing a quick update each day, even if only to report that nothing happened that day – it might be key to show this in a court case.

  • If anything happens, stay calm but write it down for later consideration. Think what happened, who was involved, time, location, witnesses, what the lead up to it was and what happened at the end. All of this will help you later.

keep a daily diary after separation from your wife or husband for legal matters


the affects on children when separated parents fight
  • If your situation involves children in a family legal case then it is critical to understand that the court will make a decision concerning their care based primarily on the 1975 Family Law Act, Section 60CC.

  • You can find the primary definition in law by clicking here, and a useful overview by clicking here.

  • A general rule of thumb is that every communication with or submission / application to the courts should take these factors into account. Any other factor is largely irrelevant.

  • If you are making an application to the court, responding to an application or writing affidavits or parenting order proposals, you should also structure them around the best interests factors to ensure that the court see that you are acting in accordance with expectations as a good parent or other guardian.

  • Consider that if a court is primarily focused on the legally defined ‘best interests of the child’, and you’re spending your time trying to prove that the other parent is lying, being horrid or unfair to you etc., its really just going to irritate the judge who need to do their job. We all sometimes feel the need to strive for fairness and justice but that’s not what the court is there to do; it is there to deliver the best interest of the child and not what you or the other parent want or feel you need. Not understanding this leads to so many issues around expectations that are not met and resulting disappointment and depression.

  • Pursuing something (anything) other than the best interest of the child criteria in a family court case is a little like trying to force everyone to play cricket in the middle of a football game – as much as you might want it so, and think that’s right, no one else there is going to do it and you’ll only alienate them and upset yourself in the process of trying to do it.


  • Ensure that all your online accounts are safe; if necessary change passwords and set up dual authentication login on email, bank and social media accounts to ensure you are not ‘hacked’.

  • If you no longer live where you did, ensure all major accounts that have your address know that you’ve moved; consider redirecting your mail to prevent a former partner accessing important and private accounts.

  • Consider securing key documents that belong to you, such as birth certificate, insurance policies, passport, shares, agreements etc.

  • Ensure that joint accounts cannot be drawn down, emptied or extended (e.g. mortgage) without your knowledge / approval. This happens more commonly than most realise and usually means both parties are equally liable for payment.

  • If you are struggling to move forward in your legal case, or to afford the costs, consider self representation – its less scary or complex than most think and you’ll soon get the hang of it with help from us and others.

change your passwords after a separation protect yourself
Protect yourself during the separation period.
recieving a letter from the family court false accusation
Go easy on the legal letters
  • Generally speaking, you’d be advised to go easy on legal letters; they rarely improve matters, do not magically make anything happen (only a court can do that) and can quickly deplete you of what limited funds you have.

  • Understand that the police deal with criminal not civil matters; your case is classed as civil so it’s pointless getting frustrated at them for not enforcing ‘your rights’. The police are one of many official agencies that you might find yourself interacting with; whilst there are always exceptions with all humans, generally speaking, they do a difficult job well. Don’t make their job unnecessarily difficult if you’re interacting with them. It only means your record with them, possibly presented in family court, makes your case that much more difficult later on.

  • As a general rule, if you’re issued an intervention order and you are absolutely not guilty of the allegations that led to it being issued, you would be ill advised to accept it – it will affect any family court case despite what others (even officials) might say. If the allegations are false, the issuing authority will usually need to prove their case in court so they might be tempted to ‘advise’ you to accept it without admissions to get it across the line. If you are guilty of the allegations, then accept responsibility and change your future to make it a positive one.

  • If you are unable to have mutually amicable and/or acceptable interaction with the other parent, you’d be well advised to stick to written communication. Email is good as it can easily be stored, sorted and printed if a court requires it. SMS is not a bad second but generally speaking, its harder to store and print. Two things that reduce conflict in written communication is to keep it strictly as brief as possible (no long emotional rants) and avoid the use of the word ‘you’, because this makes it harder to write something that sounds accusatory.

  • Let children’s school(s) know the situation and provide them a copy of any court orders that apply. Ensure there is good open two way communication with the school and ensure that both parents are listed as contacts for correspondence.

  • Never bad mouth the other parent or question the children about their time with the other. As tempting as it might be, it puts the child in a difficult position and increases their stress at a time you should be doing all you can to reduce it. Kids grow up making their opinion about how their parents behaved – don’t be the one they ultimately look as the one that made things difficult for them. The one that made them feel uncomfortable when asked about the other parent or hearing bad things about the other parent. They always remember how you made them feel even if they don’t remember the exact words. And if the other parent does it, the kids will usually see and understand that in time.

parents fighting in front of child
Remember, children always remember how you made them feel even if they don’t remember the exact words.
  • Make their time with you great! Even the shortest time with your kids, as long as it’s positive and they walk away with good memories, is preferable to lots of time thats negative. Kids eventually grow up and make their own decisions; your focus really needs to be on providing them the safest most positive / protective time you can regardless of the circumstances. You cannot change how the other parent behaves but you can control what you do and what your child experiences with you, so ignore the other parent and create great memories for your kids when they are with you.
When you do have your children enjoy them! Make the time count. Kids want to be kids, do things that they enjoy while you are together.
happy children after a divorce or separation


talking to schools and teachers separated parents
You may not be a couple anymore, but you will always be on the same team for the best interests of your children.

This didn’t come from us but we thought it was a great insight into making it work, courtesy of Dr. Jann Blackstone. Read her full article about these ten items here. Also archived here.

  1. Put the children first.

  2. Ask for help if you need it


  4. Biological parents make the rules; bonus (step) parents uphold them.

  5. Don’t be spiteful.

  6. Don’t hold grudges.

  7. Use empathy when problem solving.

  8. Be honest and straight forward.

  9. Respect each other’s turf.

  10. Compromise whenever possible.


The purpose of a parenting plan is to determine a somewhat predictable and consistent residential schedule for your children between two homes. It can include topics such as:

  • Sharing holidays and special dates

  • Travel and vacations

  • Extended family and friends

  • Schedule changes

  • Making important decisions

  • Expenses

  • Communicating with kids when away

Whilst it is not legally enforceable, it serves the purpose of reducing conflict by clarifying the understanding (therefore the expectation) between parents.

parenting plans for separated mum and dad
Avoid stress, arguments and provide stability for your children with a parenting plan.
separated parents kindly dropping off children
A parenting plan is cheaper and less stressful than going to court for a parenting order.

If you want the plan to be legally binding, you’ll need a court to review and issue a court order making the plan binding within what is known as a parenting order.

There is no required format for a parenting plan.

Making a parenting plan is cheaper and less stressful than going to court for a parenting order.

Community-based family support services that offer dispute resolution can help parents make a parenting plan to suit the particular family circumstances.

You can find further guidance and an example of a parenting plan that you can complete yourself on the Relationships Australia website here, or use the button below.

Print off this template then complete the various sections as guided.

download the pdf template for parenting plans from relationships australia