Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky

Time Limits & Family Court Proceedings– Has the Ship Already Sailed?

By Anna Westphal, Solicitor at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky Lawyers

22 September 2014

Separated from your partner and want to stick your head in the sand? Not always a good idea. It is important to be aware of the time limits in the Family Court for commencing proceedings for property and spousal maintenance. Missing limitation dates could cause you unnecessary stress, paperwork, and legal fees. You may also suffer financial prejudice. The limitation dates discussed below are in relation to property and spousal maintenance applications only.

De Facto Couples
De facto couples have two years from the date of separation to commence proceedings in the Family Court. If this limitation date has passed, leave must be sought from the Court to start proceedings. Whether or not an application for leave is successful will depend on the circumstances of the particular case.

Married Couples & Divorce
When a married couple separates, their time limits are dependent upon divorce. Married couples cannot obtain a Divorce Order until they have been separated for a period of twelve months. A Divorce Order does not take effect until one month and one day after the Order is made (unless the Court orders otherwise). They then have twelve months from the date that their Divorce Order takes effect to start proceedings. As with de facto couples, leave must be sought from the Court to start proceedings after the time limitation date.

It is important to appreciate that every Family Law case is different. The relevant legislation provides the legal framework, but circumstances are rarely black and white. If your relationship has come to an end and you are in doubt as to when you ‘legally’ separated, or about your financial circumstances and entitlements, make an appointment to see a lawyer and get some advice. The website for the Family Court of Western Australia also has useful information for those dealing with a relationship breakdown (see:

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