The scenario of a husband and wife living in separate households as they battle out a divorce happens mostly in movies. No law says that when a spouse files for divorce, the other must immediately move out. Your combined incomes might not be enough to financially sustain two households. You usually can’t leave and take your children with you without a custody order, which might not happen until you have a divorce decree. There are many reasons why divorcing spouses might choose to stay together in the marital home, and it's legal. However, some practical considerations exist.
After your divorce, you won’t be paying your bills together, so you should segregate your finances as soon as possible, even while you're still living together. If you’ve historically paid all household expenses, speak with your attorney about whether it is a good idea to continue doing so. It might send a message to the court that you’re willing and able to offer your spouse that kind of long-term financial support. Many couples divide household bills proportionately with their incomes. If you earn 70 percent of your combined incomes, take responsibility for 70 percent of household expenses and give the others to your spouse. You can change some accounts, such as utilities, from joint names into the name of the spouse who will be responsible for paying them after the divorce.
The fact that you’re still living together does not mean you don’t yet need a parenting plan. If you work out an arrangement in which each of you takes responsibility for the kids during certain days and hours, it serves a three-way purpose. It will gently accustom your children to the new reality that mom and dad are going their separate ways. It will give each parent some free time to begin transitioning to a single life. It will also help you figure out what sort of parenting plan will work when you’re divorced and living separately. If you can come up with a parenting plan on your own without involving the court in a custody battle, your divorce will be much cheaper and less traumatic for everyone.
Effect on Divorce Grounds
Even if you file on a no-fault ground of separation, many states laws permit cohabitation during the separation time, provided you stop living as husband and wife. If you divide your finances and establish your own areas of the house, that’s usually evidence enough for a court that you’re no longer living as a married couple. However, you can also file for divorce on a no-fault ground, such as irreconcilable differences, in every state. If you take this option, establishing separate lives becomes less of a factor. You might want to avoid a fault ground. This involves accusing your spouse of some wrongdoing. Depending on the severity of your allegations, this can make peaceful coexistence in the same home almost impossible.
Even the most amicable divorces can turn ugly midway through the process. Try not to cause any ill will that might turn a consensual divorce into a battle. If you begin dating again or if you rediscover the joys of partying, don’t flaunt it. Be circumspect, avoid bringing your dates home at all costs, and don’t come in at late hours. If your divorce does turn ugly and you’re still living together, your spouse can claim domestic violence in an effort to get you out, or even begin spying on you to gather some potentially useful evidence to use against you in divorce court.
References & Resources
- Fox Rothschild: Living Together During a Divorce – The Right Decision or the Only Choice?
- Divorce Source: Living Together During the Divorce – A Nightmare or a Necessity?
- New Horizons Divorce Coaching: Living Together During Divorce
- Schiller, DuCanto & Fleck: Living Together While Going Through a Divorce
- DivorceLawInfo.com: Grounds for Divorce
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images