Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Coping with family break-up, separation or divorce

2-minute read

Family break-ups, separation and divorce are highly stressful, and people often grieve over the loss of their former relationship and lives. However, the intense early feelings do ease with time, and most separated or divorced couples go on to lead fulfilling and happy lives.

When you have separated or divorced you will probably, at first, have very strong emotional and physical responses. You could:

You might also feel upset about losing:

  • your partner
  • your marriage or relationship
  • the amount of time you had with your children
  • contact with friends and relatives
  • your future plans
  • your lifestyle
  • financial security.

These responses to the stress of a break-up are all normal, regardless of whether you were in a heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual or intersex relationship.

Everyone and every situation is different so you will have your own response, especially if you experienced domestic violence or ongoing conflict in your relationship. Even if your partner was abusive, you may feel sad, angry and conflicted at the ending of the relationship.

The early emotions may be so intense you could feel as though you are not coping.

Here are some tips on how to deal with break-up, separation and divorce.

  • Make choices that give you control over your life - These choices might be accepting that it’s over, not being a victim, being positive for your children, learning new skills or making plans for the future.
  • Ask for help - People will want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask. Talk to trusted family and friends or to your doctor, especially if your feelings are affecting your everyday activities.
  • Contact services for support and advice - There are many services that can help you through separation and divorce, such as counselling, family dispute resolution and family violence prevention. You can find a list of services on the Relationships Australia and Family Relationships Online websites, or call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.

If these feelings are not improving despite your having good support, or if you feel overwhelmed or depressed, then seek medical advice as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is at risk of harming themselves, call triple zero (000) immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Last reviewed: December 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Relationship breakdown and divorce

A relationship breakdown and divorce can be a distressing time for everyone involved. Here are some coping strategies to help you and your child through it.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Separation in later life

Relationships can break down at any stage in a person's life. MensLine Australia receives around 3000 calls per year from men over the age of 55, many of whom are going through separation and divorce.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Men and Separation - Navigating the future

This book is for you if you are a man who is going through a separation or divorce, or you are someone who is supporting a man who is experiencing a separation.

Read more on beyondblue website

What about the Children? - Parenting Information Relationships Australia

This booklet covers issues that parents need to be aware of when considering their children's needs during the separation process.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Positive and respectful relationships Relationships Australia

Good relationships are good for you and good for your children. Its never too late to start working on improving your relationships.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Positive and respectful relationships Relationships Australia

Good relationships are good for you and good for your children. Its never too late to start working on improving your relationships.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Thinking separation

If you are thinking of ending your relationship, it is good to be realistic about what it might mean for everyone in the family. Children have no say in a separation but it changes their lives. It is important that they feel safe and secure.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Children and separation Relationships Australia

Making a decision to separate if you have children is complex.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Family breakups - supporting children - Better Health Channel

Separating parents can help children by giving them honest explanations and emotional support.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Co-parenting

Co-parenting is when you and your former partner share in raising your children after a divorce or breakup. Learn what the law says and how to resolve disputes.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo