If you’re contemplating or in the process of filing for a legal separation or divorce, you might assume one of you must leave home the home. However, there are a couple of reasons that a couple might choose to live under one roof, even in the event of separation. Some couples want to make the transition easier for their children, while others live together for financial reasons. No matter your reasoning, living together can be uncomfortable for couples who are legally separated. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make the situation more bearable.
Reduce the Tension
If both parties are living under the same roof during a legal separation or divorce proceeding, there will likely be occasional tension – even in the most amicable of divorces. To reduce the amount of tension and make these transitions go as smoothly as possible, take the following steps:
- Avoid bringing in new partners. In some cases, the reason for a legal separation is a new girlfriend or boyfriend, but involving this person in your arrangement will only breed more resentment. Don’t rub salt in the wound – avoid bringing dates or future partners home until after your proceeding is over. If you must date, be as discreet as possible.
- Try therapy. Even if you’re not partners in marriage, you may still be partners in parenting and cohabitation. Meeting with a neutral third party – like a therapist – will help you deal with your negative emotions in a healthy way and out of view of your children.
- Establish appropriate guidelines for interaction. When you were together, you may not have thought much about your conduct in your home. In a legal separation cohabitation arrangement, it helps to talk about logistics. Guidelines may include: how will you split the bills? Will you share groceries? How will you divvy chores and other household responsibilities? In some cases, couples choose to keep the status quo in the marriage, but these roles may have played a role in the dissolution of marriage in the first place. Have a thorough discussion about roles, and consider formalizing them in writing.
- Prepare talking points. When you’re living as a separated couple under one roof, you’re likely to encounter questions from friends, family, or coworkers. Be prepared to answer why you’re cohabitating, whether it’s making the process easier for your children or an inability to find a separate residence.
- Use separate and secure phones and computers. Your personal and business calls are officially your own business. Be sure your technology arrangements reflect it.
- Get separate checking accounts. This helps ease the transition and makes it possible for each party to pay their own fair share of the bills and expenses, if this is the arrangement you choose.
- Avoid tempting situations. Don’t be tempted to engage in romantic intimacy – it will only make an already complex situation worse. Plan to be busy when you know your partner will also be alone in the home.
- Stop socializing together. To ease your children into the idea of separation, stop attending functions you would have as a couple.
- If the tension gets to be too much to bear, consider a nesting arrangement. This is a situation where the children live full-time in the family home, while parents switch off between the primary residence and another (such as an apartment). This is an ideal way for some families to make the transition to legal separation.
Setting boundaries and following through with them will help make your legal separation go as smoothly as possible. Take some time to create house rules, and keep your children in the loop throughout this difficult time to ensure the easiest transition.