How to live together during a divorce or separation

Originally published on 1st September 2021 at 3:01 PM
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We’re now seeing more and more couples who are separated or divorced but living together ‘under one roof’. Often, this is because of circumstances that cannot be controlled or changed quickly. This could be because of:

  • an inability to find alternative accommodation
  • financial pressure
  • not wanting your children’s lives to be disrupted

The immediate questions to consider are:

  • Is this sustainable?
  • Is this beneficial?
  • Is this delaying and complicating the inevitable?

Whilst there needs to be a line drawn in the sand as to when you actually separate, logistically this can be difficult to put in place. It’s becoming more common that when people separate, rather than moving out, one couple sleeps on the sofa or in the spare room.

So how is this transitional time best managed? What should you do and what shouldn’t you do?

What are the practicalities of living together when you separate?

It’s probably more useful to be clear about what not to do if you find yourself living with your ex during separation:

1. Don't exclude your partner from the house

If you're both on the title deeds to your home, you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you change the locks and reset the alarm code. Don't disrespect your ex’s belongings and discard things without their permission. This behaviour will only escalate into a fight and feelings of resentment.

2. Remember to prioritise your children

During this period your children will most certainly be aware of the change and often, children get confused and misunderstand the dynamics of your relationship. I cannot express enough how important it is to listen to them and also watch for signs of stress and instability.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to become the favourite parent. If you’re the main caregiver, you will more than likely be routine-based and have cornerstones of care. The less active caregiver has the latitude to relax the rules and be ‘the fun one’. It can be extremely infuriating if they then assert that they’re not getting equal parenting. Use age-appropriate language to gently explain to your kids that you’re separating when you both agree. Reassure them of your love and commitment, for more tips around this read about the Parent’s Promise. Remember, your children need to feel that their home is safe and secure, not a war zone where mum and dad are always fighting.

3. Don't ignore the importance of your own personal space

It’s so important to establish clear boundaries between you both to prevent misunderstandings and to reduce conflict. You need to rise above judgment and paranoia (for instance, checking your ex’s phone):

  • Have separate sleeping and relaxing spaces.
  • Divide domestic duties clearly – shopping, laundry, cooking and eating… will you still cook and eat together? Maybe it will be more appropriate to alternate times in the kitchen and meals with the children.
  • Have a clear agreement on who pays for what with respect to the daily running of the home.
  • Communicate with each other about your personal space and time needs.
  • Have regular time outside the home to allow the other some space.

4. Don't forget the importance of respectful communication

Keep detailed divorce conversations for a neutral place outside the home if possible. Personally, I would often have them in the car (minus the kids) even if it was just parked up. Constantly remind yourself that factual and calm conversations are always more productive and positive than a cheap shot, whinge, or complaint. This also applies to extended family. Set the tone that you’re focused on co-parenting, don’t encourage taking sides or bad words about your ex. Ultimately remember that this transition period will come to an end, and you will eventually live apart, so be resilient and patient.

5. Don't forget to acknowledge your feelings, concerns, and fears

Your personal mental health and stability are paramount, not only for your kids but for you to continue to function daily and make the most of your days.

No one will tell you or agree that separation or divorce is easy. But with support and guidance, you can make it as smooth as possible.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your triggers for anger or resentment?
  • What do you want for your children? And how will you co-parent?
  • What do you want for your future?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can rationally discuss them with your ex and plan a way forward that is positive for the family.

Five tips for living together when you’re separating or getting a divorce

1. As far as the kids are concerned try to maintain the status quo as much as possible.

Don’t make any unilateral changes without consulting your partner first. Children are secure when they have regular and predictable daily routines and rituals. These now need to be done separately but shared equally if possible.

2. Use a shared calendar for co-parenting arrangements.

This will ensure that you’re not only keeping on top of events and important dates, but that you’re also sharing all the relevant information to prevent resentment and misunderstandings.

The amicable co-parenting app is a useful tool for this as it enables you to schedule shared and private events in one secure place via the co-parenting calendar.

3. Dignity and respect are important.

Remember that your children are watching you. Modelling respectful communication in challenging times is probably one of the best life skills you can pass on.

4. Do not neglect your physical and mental health.

It's important to make time for friends, activities that you enjoy, nature or a night out.

5. Spend your time not lamenting about your current situation.

Instead, focus on planning your new life and how you will forge a positive future. Ultimately, your children will benefit from having two happy and positive parents who aren't fixed on the past.



How do you live in the same house when separating?

Living in the same house while going through a separation can be challenging, but generally, establishing boundaries, communicating openly, creating schedules, taking care of yourself, and seeking support can help ease the living situation.

Why do I need a consent order?

Allowing yourself to grieve, taking care of yourself and seeking support, if necessary, can greatly help you to move on after a separation or divorce.

Why do I need a consent order?

The responsibility for paying bills during a separation can vary depending on the circumstances and agreements between the two of you. It's crucial to communicate openly and come to a mutual understanding about financial obligations during a separation.

Read More

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Comments (2)

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05.05.2024 22:43

Can I book a 15 mins session

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Oscar from amicable
24.05.2024 12:33

Hi Nadia, You can book a free 15-minute call here: Best wishes, Oscar from amicable