Separated but living under one roof – 4 Big FAQs, Answered

Separated but living under one roof?

Often times, the end of a relationship is difficult and complicated. Emotional strain, financial disagreements, and legal troubles are all common — especially if you’ve been living together. Those problems might become even worse when you’re separated under one roof,  still both living at the same residential address.

In Australia, the common legal phraseology for this is “separated but living under one roof”. If you’re experiencing that situation, you might have questions like:

  • Will our living arrangement affect our divorce proceedings?
  • Will the fact that we are living together change the government payments we are receiving?
  • How can I prove to the court that we are separated, even though we still live together?

To help you understand the legal side of things, we’ve put together the following guide to issues you might face while separated but living under one roof.

At Australian Family Lawyers, we’re a nationwide law firm with lots of experience helping people in difficult family situations. Get advice about separation and divorce

Can you seek legal advice while separated but living under one roof?

When going through a separation, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Even if you’re still living under one roof. A lawyer can help you understand changes to things like:

Is it possible to get a divorce while still living together?

Couple separated under one roof

Even though Australia has had no-fault divorce since the 1970s, there are still some restrictions around divorce proceedings. For example, you must be separated from your partner for one year before you can apply for a divorce. To satisfy the court, however, you don’t have to have lived at separate addresses for that entire twelve-month period.

It is possible to qualify for a divorce in Australia if some, or even all, of your separation has taken place while living under the same roof. The important thing is that you’re able to prove that you were separated—even if you were still living together. Evidence of being separated may include:

  • You slept in separate bedrooms
  • You didn’t cook or clean for each other
  • Didn’t attend social functions together
  • Have told family and friends of your separation

Contact our team at Australian Family Lawyers for help with that process.

Other impediments to divorce: Beyond the 12 month separation period, there may be additional legal stipulations on your divorce proceedings. If you have been married for less than two years, you may have to attend marriage counselling before filing for a divorce.

Will your government payments change if you’re separated but living under one roof?

If you receive government payments, like the Newstart allowance, your payments might change now that you’re separated but living under one roof.

The rates that Centrelink pay change depending on whether you’re receiving them as a single person, or as a member of a couple. As a single person, you might be entitled to more money than you are currently receiving as part of a couple. You may need to speak to Centrelink to explain your living situation, and find out if this will affect your entitlements, and if so, how.

If you’re still living together, how can you prove that you’re separated?

If your situation has changed, but you have not alerted Centrelink, you might be breaking the law. It is important to fill out a Separated under one roof form (SS293) through the Department of Human Services.

The department uses many different factors to determine whether or not a couple who are living together have separated. Some examples of the things they look at are:

Financial arrangements:

  • Are you providing financial support to one another — i.e. repaying each other’s loans?
  • Are you claiming to be partners for taxation, insurance, or for other reasons?
  • Do you jointly own major assets?
  • Are you nominated as a beneficiary in each other’s will, insurance policy?
  • Do you share a bank account?

Nature of the household:

  • Do you share a bedroom?
  • How are household chores shared?
  • Are there common living areas?

Sexual relationship:

  • Do you still have a sexual relationship?
  • Has there been a sexual relationship in the past?
  • Is it ongoing and exclusive?

Nature of commitment:

  • What do you both think about your relationship?
  • Do you have a strong and mutual commitment to the relationship?
  • Is there evidence to establish, or establish a lack of, emotional support?
  • Do you exert influence over each other’s long-term plans?
  • Do you think the relationship will continue indefinitely?

Social aspects of the relationship:

  • How do you present to the community?
  • Do you present as a couple at social or leisure events and activities?
  • Do friends and family perceive you to be a couple?
  • Will you share plans to spend Christmas and holidays together as a couple/family?

No one factor determines whether or not two people are considered by the department to be a couple.

The department will require evidence for some of these tests. Seek legal advice so you can proceed in the best way possible.

Separated? Living together? Our team at Australian Family Lawyers have lots of experience working with people in your situation. Contact us for legal advice today.

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