How to Live Together During the Divorce Process

When a married couple realizes that a divorce is necessary, there may be a short period of time where one spouse stays in a hotel or with friends or family, while the other holds down the fort at home. However, this isn’t a long term solution. The reality is that most couples do not have the financial means to live separately throughout the divorce process, which can take months.

For financial and practical reasons, it’s often necessary for divorcing couples to live together. This can be rather unpleasant for obvious reasons. Emotions boil over and arguments happen. This is unavoidable. But a moment’s impulse—a raised hand, a threat to take the children and disappear—can cause serious repercussions for divorce negotiations and child custody arrangements.

To ensure the well-being of you, your soon-to-be ex, your children, and your legal case, you need to lay the groundwork for a sane and stable household. Here are a few guidelines on how you can secure peace of mind and keep your head during what will likely be one of most difficult and trying periods of your family’s life.

Cohabitating During Divorce

1. Hash out how you can best communicate with one another.

Being in the same room as your spouse will likely spark anger and other unpleasant emotions. Having to talk to them is a whole other level of unpleasant. But all the same, you need to be able to communicate. There are kids to drop off at school, dishes to wash, and errands to run.

Sit down and work out ground rules for how and when to communicate. It’s imperative that you be patient, courteous, and even excessively nice. If need be, try passing some sort of a token back and forth to keep track of whose turn it is to speak. Using one of your children’s stuffed animals is a great way to remember what’s at stake.

It may feel artificial when you’re speaking through gritted teeth, but it’s better than screaming and saying (or doing) something you’ll regret later.

It’s also a good idea to document your discussions after the fact—just a quick note of the date, time, topic of discussion, and any important details. For example:

12/19/2019, 3 PM: Talked with Jeff about renting a storage locker for some of my belongings. Also made plans to call a realtor. He got a little impatient at one point, but we were both civil for the most part.

When discussing sensitive matters, such as your children, be especially careful about documenting conversations. If things tend to get touchy whenever certain topics come up, it may be wise to discuss those issues via text message or email, so that you can both retain a written record.

2. Don’t talk about who’s at fault for the divorce.

Discussions about all the emotional elements of the divorce (i.e. who screwed up) will only lead to arguments that could potentially damage your divorce or custody arrangements. Any satisfaction you might feel from ‘scoring a point’ will be short-lived.

A therapist is a much more appropriate audience for venting your feelings about the divorce.

3. Plan out your shared and separate expenses.

It may feel like the world is ending, but you still need to pay the mortgage, buy groceries, and keep the lights on. If one spouse has paid all of the expenses, or a disproportional percentage, it may be wise the revisit that arrangement. It will be necessary to arrange for the support of a spouse who has not previously brought in as much income. If necessary, get your attorneys involved and hash out a financial agreement.

Perhaps most importantly, make a plan for how to ultimately split your expenses. You have likely established a number of joint accounts, and it will take time to unwind these bank accounts, credit cards, and other shared financial assets.

4. Establish separate living spaces within the house, and divide household duties where necessary.

Just because you cohabitate during the divorce doesn’t mean that you need to be under each other’s feet (let alone share a bedroom). You each need and deserve your own space. Sort out where each of you will sleep; perhaps you can take turns swapping between the bedroom and the couch, or perhaps one of you is amenable to taking a spare bedroom. Being able to get solitude when you need it will make it much easier to live under the same roof.

Also, if one of you has been handling all of the laundry duties or cooking, this is probably a good time to have each person handle their own needs. After all, odds are that your spouse won’t show quite as much discretion about separating the whites from the rest of the laundry.

5. Start scheduling time when each of you can have alone time with the kids, and when you’ll be out of the house.

The reality is that in the near future, your children will be moving back and forth between two households. Now is a good time to start getting a feel for how that process will work. This will allow your children to acclimate to this significant change in their daily life.

Also, at this point both of you will likely rediscover the joy of spending the night out with friends. Take turns having one parent stay home with the kids while the other has adult time. But be respectful of one another by setting times when the “out” parent is expected to be home. Yes, you are grown adults, but predictability and courtesy benefits everyone.

6. Do NOT under any circumstances bring a date home.

People are often surprised how quickly they feel the impulse to jump into the dating game. In many cases, divorcees often feel that they are making up for lost time after spending years in a relationship that had lost its spark.

However, at home it is absolutely necessary that you preserve the sanctity and stability of your home, particularly if you have children. Being discovered with a paramour is a surefire way to destroy the ability to communicate and collaborate with one another in a productive manner.

Be respectful and patient with one another while the divorce is ongoing. While you share a roof with your spouse, share that roof only with your spouse and kids.

All of the above is designed to keep your household safe and sane, so that you can divorce in a peaceful, respectful manner.

Divorce is always a stressful, trying process. But you have to do your best to keep your head and keep the peace.

Failing to show proper respect and patience can have dire legal consequences, especially when it comes to child custody. Following the ground rules outlined above helps to avoid the sort of disruptive behavior that provides ammunition for your partner to convince a judge that you are too unreliable or unstable to have custody, or even visitation rights.

The great thing about divorce is that it doesn’t last forever. After all, the point of divorce is that it’s a means of ending a troubled relationship. You will eventually come out the other side.

If you would like assistance with your divorce case, or you and your partner are interested in working with a family lawyer to facilitate a collaborative divorce, Toeppen & Grevious can help. For more information, give us a call at (916) 400-4516, or send us a message using our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you and having the opportunity to help your family achieve a peaceful, happy resolution.