Going through a separation is a serious issue, and it is a trying time in a person’s life. You have thought long and hard, and you have decided to split, which will alter the world as you know it. Such a drastic change can upset a person— emotionally, financially, and in other ways.
However, continuing to live together can ease the burden of separation by providing a common ground for both parties to meet. It can also help you share costs. Best of all, it is more common than you might think among separated couples.
Living Together While Divorcing vs Living Together While Separated
If you are reading this article, chances are that you are going through a divorce or a separation. Or you know that you will be divorced or separated soon, so you want to prepare.
The main difference between the two is that a legal separation is a court order, which mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are married. Meanwhile, a divorce is a complete dissolution of the marriage (according to FindLaw.com).
What Does This Differentiation Mean for Me?
If you are separated, you retain all rights, such as healthcare, marital status, important decision-making (since your spouse is still considered your next of kin), debt-sharing, and property ownership. During proceedings for a legal separation, the court will decide on separation maintenance, child custody, child visitation, and property division.
Living separately can affect property division, and any property acquired during a separation is still considered marital property. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense to reside together, since it will ease the communication and create fewer considerations as the divorce is finalized (again according to FindLaw.com).
What About Divorcees Living Together?
If you are divorced, your marriage is completely dissolved, so you are legally considered a single person. In fact, you may no longer be connected to your former spouse in any way.
Therefore, once the divorce is finalized, the decision to continue living together will boil down to finances and children. Many divorcees choose to live together as a way to co-parent their children. And since the moving process is monetarily and physically taxing, numerous divorced couples share a home as they get on their feet and transition into their new lives.
Are Things Ever Going to Be Normal Again?
Your children are undoubtedly the most important people in your life. You would do anything you possibly could to protect your kids from harm, and you would never want them to feel confused or hurt.
After witnessing their parents separate, children are frequently concerned that their lives will never feel normal again. However, if both parents reside in the same house after the divorce, children have some sense of normalcy. The knowledge that both mom and dad are nearby can be very comforting.
This term is used to describe co-parenting after separation or divorce. While you and your spouse do not care to be a family, you want your kids to love and know both parents. You certainly want to make sure your children have relationships with the absent parent, as the separation was not their fault.
If you live together after you file for separation, you can rest easy, knowing that you do not need to be concerned about feeling guilty about whether your children see the other parent. And your kids can relax at night, knowing that both parents are just a few steps away. Furthermore, you will not need to worry about who has the children on what day, as all parties are under one roof.
Some parents also choose to have family activities with their children and former spouses. This method is an excellent way to practice models of civility for children. Then they will understand that two parties can work together, even though they disagree. This lesson provides the sense of togetherness that young children need to thrive.
Financial Concerns During Separation
Regardless of a person’s marital status, money is a sensitive topic. In fact, it is the number one reason why married couples argue, so it is no surprise that it will be a point of contention for separated couples as well. By choosing to live together after you divorce, you are erasing some of the financial stresses that occur as a result of this trying time. The average cost of divorce can be in the thousands, since it is often preceded by separation.
The knowledge that you do not have to worry about housing on top of these costs can make it easier on both parties. Until recently, the US economy has been rather slow with many folks who are just now getting back into the workforce. While parties work to get back on their feet, having a place to call home makes the process easier.
Holding Down the Fort
Some separated couples look at living together like being housemates. Rents, mortgages, and utilities can be split. Chores (such as laundry and yard work) can be agreed upon and delegated. Each party can purchase his or her own necessities, such as food and toiletries.
If there was a large disparity in income between the two parties, splitting the cost fairly can help maintain the lifestyle they used to be accustomed to. For example, by sharing the cost of a mortgage on a home, you can avoid foreclosure, credit damage, the need to hire or compensate a real estate agent that specializes in short sales.
Preparing for Takeoff
While it is not strange for people to live together after they file for separation, some individuals may feel better if they move out of the household. Of course, in most situations, moves cannot be completed overnight. You will need time to gather your belongings, set up utilities and mail at your new residence, and make arrangements for children to begin attending a new school.
Living together may also make everything easier, in terms of planning. For example, a parent may choose to wait to move out until his or her child finishes the school year. Therefore, the child will have a clear image about what to expect, time to say goodbye to his or her friends and teachers, and the ability to prepare for the switch to the new school.
As this stage of your life unfolds, you will have several appointments to keep, many which require the presence of your spouse. By living together, you can easily discuss the appointments before or after they happen, without the need for playing phone tag or sending emails back and forth.
If one party does plan on moving, living together affords you the opportunity to discuss when and where they will move. You can then get your own finances in order, and make arrangements to solely have household utilities and mail in your name.
(Not) Getting Back Out There
During a separation, dating is probably the most controversial topic. It can be scary to take the first steps to establish a new relationship, especially after this difficult period of vulnerability and pain. The etiquette surrounding dating while separated (or during the process of a divorce) is dependent on the two parties involved, but common courtesy dictates that one should wait until the divorce is final before dating.
Living together can help prevent unwanted arguments and bitter feelings between you and your spouse about dating. When you are living together, you will probably see the other person every day, which makes it easier to consider his or her feelings. It is also considered awkward and distasteful to bring a new romantic partner home if you live with your former spouse.
Children are wont to ask lots of questions, some of which are uncomfortable. They are still recovering from the huge changes that just took place in their lives, and are probably still a bit confused about the separation. By bringing a new partner into a home they perceive to be their own, you are adding to the stress they already feel.
Additionally, if you are dating someone new, you probably will not know if they are good with children. Many parents are simply not okay with their kids being around strangers. In other words, living together forces you to consider the feelings of your children and spouse.
Lastly, such a trying time in a person’s life calls for a support system. Sadly, some people mistake lust for love, so a rebound relationship could result in the support they need. It is much more difficult to bring a partner home for a fling if you know you live with your former spouse, so it can prevent you from moving too fast or getting hurt even more.
During a separation, you can use your home as a place to recover, and evaluate what you are seeking in a relationship.
You Do You
As a separated individual, you must now learn to do things alone. If this statement sounds harsh, living in your marital home can help ease the transition from a partnership to a sole proprietor (so to speak). Your separation can actually be used as an opportunity to practice self-care and become reliant on yourself.
Since you are sharing your home with your former spouse, you must create boundaries for yourself and your children, so you should discuss the ways that the house will be divided with your former spouse. For example, if you are fortunate enough to have more than one bathroom, you can designate one to each spouse.
For the kitchen, you might set up separate times for food preparation. Always be sure to clean up after yourself, and leave everything better than you found it.
It is best to create a neutral space, instead of doing things that might incite disagreements.
Flex Your Independent Muscle
You can also use this time to become fluent in tasks that your spouse used to do for you. For example, now is a good time to learn how to operate a lawn mower, clean a lint trap, and perform basic repair on appliances. Since you are still in a place where you can make mistakes, you can ask for a helping hand if you need one. Therefore, if you do eventually choose to part ways, you will be confident in your ability to handle small setbacks.
You may still occasionally have the urge to take care of your former spouse in some way. For example, you might be at the grocery store and see a food that he or she loves. Your impulse might be to buy that food for him or her, but remember, living together is intended to facilitate self-reliance and self-care. While it may seem foreign or cold-hearted at first, you must learn to only care for yourself and your children.
Therefore, do not buy anything for your former spouse, prepare food for him or her, clean up messes that he or she makes, or do his or her laundry. Do your best to separate your lives, and move to a place of independence. It will be the right thing for your own wellbeing (and your former spouse’s).
Perhaps the best way to get into the spirit of independence is to create a physical space just for you, which is your designated space for grieving and recovery. It could be a room in your house dedicated to your interests and beliefs, such as a den. Or it could be a corner of a room you make your own, with comfortable furniture and objects that bring you peace, such as books and sketch pads.
If you do not have physical space that you can designate for this purpose, you could just go for a walk each day to be alone with your thoughts, take a yoga class, or carve out time for quiet meditation. No matter how you approach it, create a ritual for yourself. It is one small step in the journey to independence.
It is important to remember that living together after you separate is quite common, and makes sense for several reasons. It is a lot easier on the children, who will be concerned and questioning during this trying time. As a parent, it eases your mind to know that your kids can come to either you or your spouse for support. When children see their parents practicing civility, they grow and learn as people.
Living together also makes good financial sense. Lifestyle changes do not have to be as harsh, and the care of the home’s mortgage, utilities, and repairs can be shared, the way housemates do. And any appointments related to the separation or divorce can easily be coordinated.
Arguably the most sensitive topic of all, dating, becomes easier to manage, since a shared home prevents partners from moving too fast romantically, or bringing unsavory people home to be around your children. By slowing down in the dating scene, you can have more time to think about what you would like to gain from a new relationship, instead of mistaking a fleeting feeling of lust for true romance, and thereby feeling more hurt afterward.
Lastly, living together after a separation affords you and your former spouse the chance to gain your independence in a controlled environment. By learning to do things for yourself in a space you are familiar and comfortable with, you can safely make mistakes and civilly ask for help, if you need to.
While this period is painful, remember that you made the right decision for yourself and your family. Keep in mind that you are strong, worthy, and capable. This time will not last forever, and you will come out on top.