Accessibility 1

Family Law

Family Law includes legal matters about relationships, children, and property. Generally, family law matters can be separated into four areas: parenting, separation, divorce, and property.

TEWLS has produced a series of free fact sheets about these areas of family law to provide information and guidance to women about the law. You can find these in Factsheets & Other Resources.

TEWLS can also provide advice and limited assistance in child protection matters (matters involving the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities). For more information, please Contact Us.

Side Cta Leaf
Advancing Women’s Rights

Free legal help for women & non-binary persons


If you and your ex-partner have any children under the age of 18, including non-biological children, it is likely you will need to make arrangements for their care, welfare, and development following your separation.

What are parenting arrangements?

Parenting arrangements are arrangements for the care of children. They can include arrangements about where children will live, how children will spend time with people, as well as restrictions to protect children, such as arrangements restricting drug and alcohol use.

Parenting arrangements are commonly misunderstood as ‘child custody’, which emphasises the rights of the parents to the child. Instead, in Australia, the focus is on the rights of the child, with parents and/or guardians having parental responsibility instead of rights to their child/children. When making parenting arrangements, the primary consideration must be the best interests of the child.

Under new changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that come into effect May 2024, the range of factors that must be considered in deciding what is in the ‘best interests of the child’, include:

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, there is an additional consideration of the child’s right to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. This includes consideration of the child having the opportunity to connect with members of their family, and with their community, culture, country, and language.

You can make parenting arrangements in lots of different ways – there is no right way.

Some examples of parenting arrangements include:

You can make parenting arrangements as a parent, and as a person involved in the parenting of a child, including an aunt, grandparent, or guardian.

You can learn more about separation by reading our factsheet here.

You might want to seek legal help if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the below questions:


When you separate, you and your ex-partner will likely need to discuss if and how you will divide your finances and property – this includes your assets and your debts.

What is property?

In family law, ‘property’ includes all assets and liabilities of a relationship, including things in both person’s names and in individual names. Property includes things like real estate, money in banks, superannuation, motor vehicles, mortgages, and credit card debts. When determining the property of a relationship, it does not matter who owns what – everything is counted.

Property arrangements are arrangements for how your finances and property will be divided at the end of your relationship. You do not have to be married to be able to make property arrangements – de facto couples can also make property arrangements.

It is also important to know that there is no set division of property under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) – every relationship is different. A division of property is made according to the parties’ circumstances, including the length of the relationship, contributions by the parties during the relationship, and each person’s future needs.

You can make property arrangements informally, or through formal ways such as:

Often, property arrangements can be made through mediation, and you will not have to go to Court.

You can make property arrangements at any time during or after your relationship, but it is usually best to make arrangements shortly after separation.

However, if you need the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) to make a decision about property, there are important time limits to keep in mind:

You should seek legal advice about the consequences if you do not follow these time limits, which can include the Court not accepting your application for property orders.

To learn more about property arrangements, you can read our Family Law factsheet on Property Arrangements here.

You might want to seek legal help if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the below questions:

You should seek urgent legal advice if you want help with property division and you are outside the time limit set by the Court.

Separation & divorce

Separation is the process of ending a relationship, including a marriage, de facto relationship, or casual relationship.

If you are married and have separated from your spouse, you may be considering an application for divorce – the legal process of ending a marriage.

Who can separate?

Anyone in a relationship can choose to separate or end a relationship. This includes any couple, including de facto couples, married couples, and any other relationship.

Separation happens when one person in the relationship decides to separate, acts on that decision, and tells the other person. The other person doesn’t have to agree to the separation.

Often, the only circumstances where people need to tell an external party or Government Department about their separation is if one or both people are receiving Government benefits, such as Centrelink benefits, or if one or both people are in Australia on a visa. If you are intending on separating or have separated and there is a visa or visas involved, you should seek legal advice.

To learn more about separation, you can read our Family Law factsheet on Separation here.

To apply for a divorce, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)states that the following grounds of eligibility must be met:

If you were married overseas or if your marriage certificate is not in English, you should seek legal advice before applying for divorce.

To learn more about divorce, you can read our Family Law factsheet on Divorce here.

To get a divorce, you need to apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) for a divorce order. All applications for divorce are now received online through the Commonwealth Courts Portal, with applications able to be made solely (by one person) or by consent (by both people).

Generally, applications for divorce take about three (3) months to be processed and will end after the Court issues your divorce order.

You might want to seek legal help if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the below questions:

Side Cta Leaf
Advancing Women’s Rights

Free legal help for women & non-binary persons

Cta Bg
Advancing Women’s Rights
Free legal help for women & non-binary persons


The TEWLS website has a “quick exit” button in the top right-hand corner of the page.

This button will close the TEWLS website and open the Bureau of Meteorology website. You may need to use this button if you are worried that someone is watching you use the computer or that you have been looking at the TEWLS website.

The “quick exit” button does not delete your browser history. This means that if someone checks your browser history, they will be able to see that you have visited the TEWLS website.


Remember, deleting large parts of your internet history may be dangerous. This is because it may tell someone that you do not want your internet history to be found.

If you need help with online safety and/or technological safety, you can visit the eSafety Commissioner website here or you can call 1800 RESPECT on their 24-hour telephone counselling and support service. If you are in danger, you should call the Police on 000.


If you would like to speak to TEWLS with an interpreter:

You can call TEWLS on 1800 234 441 and ask to speak to us with an interpreter. We can organise this for free. You will need to tell us your name, your phone number and the language that you speak. We will then call you back with an interpreter on the phone.

TEWLS are able to organise interpreters for most languages, including Aboriginal languages and Auslan.


You can also organise for TEWLS to contact you:

To organise for TEWLS to contact you, please complete the form through the Request An Appointment button on the TEWLS home page.


If you would like to listen to the TEWLS website in an
Aboriginal language:

TEWLS has had four Top End Aboriginal languages recorded for this website. You can click the “play” button to listen to these recordings.

The languages that are currently available are:

  • Murrinh-Patha
  • Tiwi
  • Warlpiri
  • Yolngu Matha

If you would like to read the TEWLS website in a language other than English:

The TEWLS website is able to be translated to lots of different languages. To change the language settings, press the “English” button in the top bar of the website and choose the language that you speak.
Skip to content