The first 5 things to do if
you're considering a divorce

While one in three Australian marriages end in divorce, it’s nonetheless often a painful and daunting process to begin. CEO of Relationships Australia NSW Elisabeth Shaw explains the five things you need to do if your relationship is beyond repair.

This article was originally written by Elisabeth Shaw for Body + Soul.

Only a generation ago, the notion of “til death do us part” was taken very seriously. Now, around one in three marriages will end in divorce.

Despite it being relatively common, there are still some families who have never experienced a divorce. There are some school groups where among peers, no parents are divorced; and some friend groups where everyone is busy settling into coupledom, not dissolving their relationship.

If you are considering divorce, it can be incredibly daunting to know where to start and where to get advice.

Be sure

This can be important for your recovery later, and to make sure you have fewer regrets. Have you brought up everything with your partner and given the maximum opportunity for it to change? Is it possible that your arguing style gets in the way of resolving problems? It is really valuable to see a well-qualified couple counsellor to assist you and double-check the possibilities for recovery.

Get support

Get support in place for yourself. Often this is useful to arrange independently of your friends and family, who might have their own views and attitudes about what is going on, even if their intentions are good. A private space to work through it can assist in what is a lengthy process.

Manage friends and family as best you can

Tell those who love you what you need from them, and that is not to get in the middle of the conflict.

Ideally, you and your partner might agree on a common management plan of announcements, social events coming up, friendships, timelines for the split, social media profiles, and so on.

Seek advice and information

Access legal advice from the Family Law Court website, Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres, LawAccess or contact the Law Society for private lawyers in your area specialising in Family law.

If you’ve been married less than two years, you and your spouse will first need to attend a counselling session and obtain a certificate stating that the relationship has broken down. If this cannot be arranged, for example your partner refuses to attend or where there is violence, an affidavit needs to be filed. Afterward, standard divorce procedures apply, including the 12 month separation period.

If you have separated as a result of family and domestic violence, the first two years after separation are particularly high risk. You need to ensure that you are well supported and safe, and engage with specialist services equipped to help you.


For disputes over children and property, the first step to resolving issues can be to contact a Family Relationship Centre or mediation centre which are hubs of information, referral, support, and mediation established to support couples experiencing relationship difficulties, conflict after separation, violence, or need assistance after a family breakdown. Co-parenting app Divvito can be a useful tool to streamline communications with your former partner.

The children will manage the situation best if you find a way to collaborate with the other parent around parenting. Agree on what you will tell the children and about how you will talk with them.

Think carefully about what the children need to know, what they need to hear from you, and what you can provide together and separately for them.

Elisabeth Shaw is CEO of Relationships Australia NSW and a clinical and counselling psychologist specialising in couple and family work.

For support RANSW is here to help, on 1300 364 277, or visit our website,

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