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living together while getting divorce

Can We Keep Living in the Same House While Getting a Divorce?

Categorized as Divorce

When a couple is considering a divorce, oftentimes there is a discussion about the house and who will live there during the divorce process.  Whether it is rented or purchased, some people decide that they would like to remain living in the same house during the process of obtaining their divorce – particularly if there are children involved.  So, are there good reasons to remain living together?

In Illinois, You Can Still Qualify for a Divorce Even if You Are Living Together

Illinois no longer has “fault” assigned to one of the parties in order to obtain a divorce.  Parties can still be living together in the same house and still be separated from each other.

Why Would You Still Live Together?

Divorcing couples continue to live together for numerous reasons.  One common reason may be that there just is not enough money for them to set up another household.  If money is tight and you can set the appropriate ground rules, there is no reason why both parties could not still live together.

Some people stay together because of the children.  Again, if you can do this without excessive fighting or any type of physical violence, then living together for the sake of the children can be a positive thing.  I will often advise my client to stay in the house if there are children until we have custody figured out.  But only if some sort of harmony can be achieved.  It is not worth it for the kids if every day leads to bitter words and extreme fighting.

The more you discuss the arrangement and plan ahead, the easier it will be to live in the house together during a divorce.  

Tips to Make Living in the Same House Easier

1. Define Space for Each of You in the Home

Some couples are lucky to have a large enough house where you can each have your own room.  Or, the attic, den, or basement can be utilized to create another living space.  Having your own space allows you both to keep your own possessions, clothing, and belongings to your own space without future arguments.  Having some space away from your spouse will be very helpful as you continue to live together.

2. Be Respectful of Each Other

When I have divorce clients that continue to live together with their spouse, you have to be cognizant of some family rules.  One of the most important rules would be not to have “significant others” over to the house.  That sounds so elementary that I am reluctant to even mention it here. But you’d be surprised how often this subject comes up.

Also, if you have a house alarm or a dog in the house, come home at a reasonable hour.  Nothing is more disturbing to the other person than having you wander into the house, resetting the alarm and making the dog bark at 3:00 a.m.  Just because you consider yourself a “free” person now and free to do what you want; it can be unsettling to create a disturbance early in the morning.  If the two of you cannot live together without causing extreme anxiety to your soon-to-be ex spouse, your living arrangement is likely to be ended by the judge.

If there are children in the house, you do not want the evidence coming into court that you are never there for them and instead you come home every night at 3:00 a.m.  There will be plenty of time for your social life after the divorce is over and you both have found your own housing away from each other.

Keep your personal mail and documents to yourself and do not go into the other’s space to spy on them.  You wouldn’t think this would need to be mentioned either, but if you are trying to make this work, a little respect for the other person will be mandatory.

3. Work Out the Financial Aspects of Living Together

Since you will be sharing the space, you will need to share in the expenses.  Of course there will be mandatory expenses like the utilities and the rent/mortgage, but then there are other expenses you should discuss like the grocery bill.  Don’t be the person who never contributes to the groceries and then eats all the food.  These are little passive-aggressive tactics that we see all the time, so try and remember that the goal is to get along, and eating all the snack food is likely to cause discord.

4. Do Not Fight and Quibble With Each Other

Do whatever you can to keep the peace. If you feel a fight coming about, then go for a walk.  The living arrangement will be for nothing if it results in the police being called or if there are verbal or physical altercations.  Decide ahead of time who is cooking dinner for the children.  And who is giving baths and putting them to bed?  Perhaps you can both alternate as to who will do this for the kids to avoid disagreements.

Avoid name-calling or other passive-aggressive behaviors when you are living together.  I once had a client who was sensitive to any kind of smell and of course, his wife then started cleaning the house with strong chemicals and using cleaners that affected his ability to live there.  

No one knows better how to irritate you than your spouse.  Try to avoid engaging in those types of behaviors.  If you ultimately cannot get along well enough with your spouse, the judge is going to make one of you move, which defeats what you both agreed to do.

Living in the Same House Will Not Last Forever!

Hopefully, the house-sharing arrangement will not last very long.  But keep in mind, child custody disputes can take a while to work out in court, and you may be doing this for a year or more.  You can decide ahead of time how long the living arrangement will last.  Or if it gets too difficult, a decision will need to be made to move out.

If you and your spouse can work out your living arrangements successfully, it will go a long way with the court’s decision to grant you shared parenting time.  The judge wants to see that you can get along with the other parent, and this will be great practice to demonstrate your ability and willingness to get along with the other parent.

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