10 Daily Rules For Living Together During Divorce

Sometimes you have to cohabitate while you separate, but you don't have to make the divorce process harder.

divorced man and woman living in the same house Bricolage / Shutterstock

Some marriages end because spouses can no longer live together. It may happen for various reasons: faded feelings, lack of mutual understanding or respect, changed views and plans for life, etc. But what if they decide to continue cohabiting during divorce and even after it is finalized? Is there a chance to coexist in a civilized way?

The short answer is there’s always a chance. 

The decision to live together while going through a divorce may be a choice or a necessity dictated by the circumstances. Here are some of the most common reasons why soon-to-be ex-husbands and wives share one living space after deciding to end their union.


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Here are six reasons couples might continue to live together during a divorce proceeding

1. Spouses don’t want to leave their homes

The desire to live in your house or apartment is normal, especially if you bought, built, furnished it, and created the atmosphere of a real home. When a person puts their soul and money into building a nest, few want to lose it.


2. Spouses want to protect their rights

If the primary breadwinner leaves the marital home before the divorce process is finished, some states may issue a status quo order. Thus, the party must continue to pay the family bills and cover their new home-related expenses.

Besides, leaving the family home means one of the spouses will spend less time with their children. What’s more, if both sides can’t develop a clear parenting timetable, it may cause problems obtaining fair custody after a divorce.

3. Spouses have nowhere else to live during the divorce

Not all couples can afford to live in separate homes during divorce proceedings. Sometimes, even if they sell their apartments or houses and split the money, they still can’t buy separate housing accommodations.  

What’s more, if spouses have limited finances, renting housing separately may be too expensive. 


4. Spouses don’t want their divorce to go public

Divorce can traumatize an elderly or seriously ill relative or another close relative. Since moving out to separate apartments might raise questions, some spouses prefer living in the same house until the divorce is finalized. 

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5. Spouses continue living together for their children

Couples with children may try to keep up the image of the family to protect their kids. However, it’s not always the right strategy. 

Sometimes it can be better to explain everything to your child and help them cope with stress than to let them witness the “cold war” between their parents day after day. In this case, cohabiting will only harm the kids.


6. Cohabiting meets the business needs

Future ex-spouses who have a joint business can become reliable partners. For example, if a family has a business based where they live (a farm, a store, etc.), they can continue living and running it together. However, it only works if spouses break up peacefully and are ready to cooperate. 

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What does family law say about living together during a divorce?

Do you have to live separately to get a divorce? It is a fairly common question among spouses who are getting divorced but still living together. Most states allow divorcing couples to live together. However, there are some exceptions. 

For example, in Illinois, spouses must live separately and apart for six months before the divorce can be finalized. The separation period can start before the divorce is filed. 


In Maryland, it depends on the grounds used to file for divorce. Voluntary separation, desertion, and conviction of a felony require spouses to live in different houses without having sexual relations for one year. In case of adultery or cruelty, separation is not needed.

In Vermont, the situation is different. The state allows divorcing spouses to live together, but they must sleep in separate beds and act as though their marriage is over for at least half a year before the divorce can be finalized.

If the divorce is uncontested and spouses used no-fault reasons to apply, cohabitation has practically no legal consequences. However, the couple should still prove that they have separate lives. 

You may ask, “How to separate when you live together?” The answer is quite simple.


Living alone ... together

First, spouses need to show that they sleep in separate bedrooms and have no sexual relations. Second, they shouldn’t act as couples usually do (watching TV or visiting public events together, cooking or cleaning for each other, etc.)   

Contested divorces can be more complicated. Cohabitation during the trial can aggravate high-conflict situations. However, if there is no other option, spouses should divide their lives as much as possible to minimize the potential negative effects.

Therefore, before deciding on living together with an ex-spouse during a divorce, both sides should check whether local laws allow it and how it can affect the process to avoid unnecessary complications and stress.  

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What makes it tough

Living with a spouse during a divorce is associated with increased emotional stress. If one or both spouses can’t find a way to survive it, the daily coexistence under one roof can be filled with scandals, reproaches, and exhausting finger-pointing. As a result, the life of both parties is in danger of becoming hell.    

In addition, constant conflicts between parents can negatively affect minor children and teenagers. In such families, they may suffer from anxiety, aggression, fears, and self-doubts, leading to psychological trauma.

When children see their divorced parents living together as if nothing has changed, they may feel false hope and think their mom and dad can get back together. Assistant professor of counseling psychology at Delaware Valley University, Matt Mutchler, researched this topic. He says that the divorcing parents’ intent to continue to live together is commendable, but it’s critical to set boundaries. 

He notes, “The parents have to be very clear that [they] aren’t getting back together. This is one of the common fantasies a child has after a divorce, and this type of living situation may exacerbate that fantasy.”


At the same time, the statistics on getting back together after divorce are pretty sad. Only 6 percent of divorced couples get remarried to the same person. 

Another negative point is that none of the partners has the opportunity to arrange their personal life. Indeed, it is almost impossible to bring home a new passion in such a situation, especially if the ex-spouse is jealous or aggressive.

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Here are 10 rules of thumb for living together during a divorce

1. Explain everything to your children

If you think children live in their little world with rainbows and unicorns and don’t see anything around them, you are wrong. Even at a young age, they can notice changes in their parent’s behavior. 


Thus, before they hear you talking about divorce (or even worse, yelling at each other) and draw conclusions themselves, it is better to give them an age-appropriate explanation. 

Tell your child about the divorce in a way they can understand and explain how long this process will take. Try to create a detailed plan of how their lives will be arranged during this period. It will give a sense of confidence and stability, which are crucial for a child whose parents are going through a divorce.

2. Coordinate parenting time

Spouses with children need to decide how they want to share duties related to raising and taking care of their children. Ideally, you should make a schedule of who will pick up and drop your kids to and from school, and who will help them with their homework, extracurricular activities, etc. 

You can also determine when each of you will be able to spend time alone with your children. This timetable can serve as the basis for a further visitation plan.


3. Work out your routine 

If future ex-spouses are planning on living in the same house during a divorce, they should solve everyday issues. A joint routine can be one of the most important things for a quiet life for spouses and their kids in such a situation.

To begin with, organize your space and decide where each person’s things will be stored. You can even discuss when each of you will use the washing machine, clean up, go shopping, etc. 

Quite often, such trivial things provoke the biggest quarrels. By discussing all these issues, you will greatly facilitate cohabitation during a divorce.

4. Respect personal space

Once you’ve distributed rooms in your house and moved your personal belongings there, you can create your own separate spaces. It may be difficult to accept that some parts of the house are no longer “yours,” but it is vital to adhere to the established boundaries and respect them. It will create a sense of stability and help you see each other less.


You need to accept this new way of life and understand that even though you and your spouse are living together while divorcing, you are separate individuals. This person is no longer your partner but rather a neighbor. You should learn to respect each other because it can be the key to peaceful cohabitation. 

5. Reach financial arrangements

The question of finances is very sensitive. However, you should not bypass it because quarrels on financial grounds can occur as often as on household ones.

First, you need to understand how things were with finances before you decided to get divorced. Sometimes, one of the spouses either earns more or is the only one who makes money, while the other devotes all their time and energy to the family and raising children. In such a case, the earning spouse may decide to take on financial obligations until the other spouse finds a job.

It is just one of the possible scenarios. Therefore, two spouses should openly discuss their financial capabilities and draw up a realistic budget to satisfy both parties.


6. Don’t let new romantic life into the home 

Even if future ex-spouses feel they are ready to date other people, they shouldn’t take their “new friends” to the house where they are living together while waiting for divorce. 

In some states, such a relationship can be considered adultery. Since marital infidelity is one of the fault grounds for divorce, the judge can consider it when deciding on child custody. In some situations, pre-divorce affairs can ruin the relationship between spouses making their cohabitation more stressful. 

Additionally, bringing home someone you date can cause psychological trauma to your children.


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7. Avoid having sex

Sleeping together during divorce is rarely a good idea. Although it may seem that intimacy can help you relieve divorce loneliness, chances are, it could make the situation even more confusing and cause unnecessary complications.  

For example, getting a divorce but still sleeping together can result in your complaint being denied if you file for uncontested divorce stating irreconcilable differences. On the other hand, it may be perceived as an attempt of reconciliation in a fault-based divorce.

Moreover, if one of the spouses still has feelings for the other, sex can give false hope of reunion.


8. Stop celebrating holidays together

Christmas, Thanksgiving, and anniversaries should no longer be holidays that you celebrate together. Of course, if you have children, some holidays, including their birthdays, will be partly shared, but remember that your kids are the only denominator here.

What’s more, you and your spouse may want to divide holidays and make a schedule you can then add to your parenting plan. 

9. Assess the situation

After discussing all aspects of living together while getting divorced, set a time frame to evaluate how all the agreements you have reached work in practice. Perhaps after the first period of cohabitation, you will see the need to make some changes. Negotiate them with your spouse. 

It’s great if you can find a way to coexist that suits each side. However, if you see that it brings more harm than good, you should not force yourself or your spouse to suffer. First, it will lead to unnecessary stress during the divorce process. Second, you can completely ruin the relationship between you two.


10. Take care of yourself

Living in the same house while divorcing can provoke both emotional and physical discomfort. Therefore, it is critical to take good care of yourself

Try to find time to do sports, preferably outside the home. It will help you keep yourself in shape and spend less time in the same space with your ex. Visit your friends, watch a movie, read a book, or do whatever you like to get distracted from the situation.

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Natalie Maximets is a life transformation coach with expertise in existential psychology.