Not all couples who decide to end their marriage immediately begin living separately. Although one person often does move out of the home, that’s not always possible. Sometimes, it’s just not affordable to get a new residence until the financial arrangements have been worked out. Sometimes, particularly when there are children, parents decide to keep things as “normal” as possible for a time.
Whatever the reason you and your spouse are still sharing a home after you’ve decided to divorce and even begun the process, it’s crucial to establish rules and expectations.
Set clear boundaries
You each need to have your own space and respect each other’s privacy. You definitely shouldn’t be sharing a bedroom. If your home is big enough, you can each take part of it and develop a schedule for use of common areas like the kitchen, living room and patio.
If you have children, make things as easy on them as possible. The situation is bound to feel awkward for them. Make sure they understand why you’re continuing to live together and that this doesn’t mean you’re trying to work things out if you’re not.
Determine how finances will be handled
Since you’re still sharing your home, you should continue to share expenses like the mortgage, maintenance and repair costs, food and utilities. If one spouse knows they’ll be moving soon, they may be less inclined to contribute to some expenses, so make sure you’re not suddenly saddled with all of the expenses before property division and support agreements are worked out.
Develop a parenting schedule
Determine how you’re going to divide your time with the kids. Don’t make them choose who they’ll spend time with or which parent’s section of the house they want to be in. Work that out between yourselves and keep your conflicts away from the kids – even if that means texting each other instead of talking.
You also may need to work out who will drop off and pick up the kids from school and other activities if that will be changing. This is all good preparation for the co-parenting relationship you’ll need to develop.
It’s especially important to have legal guidance as you work out the details of continuing to cohabit with your estranged spouse – particularly around determining your “date of separation” and perhaps for developing some written agreements for how you’ll handle this unique period in your lives.