Divorced, but living under the same roof?

Following a divorce, ties are often severed and couples may want to avoid seeing each other again. Many seek new homes to settle in to start afresh and rebuild their lives. However, for some, this may not be an option. While unusual, some couples choose to live in the same matrimonial home even after their divorce has been completed. In this article, we will explore some reasons why couples make such a decision, the potential challenges of such an arrangement, and advice for couples who are considering this arrangement.

Why some divorced couples live together

For many, financial constraint is likely the most compelling reason for them to live under the same roof after the divorce. As the process of filing for divorce can be costly, it is natural that those undergoing divorce may look to save money wherever possible. Couples may decide that their financial woes outweigh the awkwardness of living together with one’s ex-spouse, and thus agree to put up with such living arrangements. Furthermore, long waiting periods are involved in getting a new place to stay. Rather than end up in a limbo with no place to reside, couples may decide that it would be better to continue living under the same roof.

Another reason why ex-spouses choose to live together could be for the sake of their children. It has been shown by studies that allowing children to remain in the home without having to be uprooted and shuttled between different homes frequently can minimize the psychological damage of the divorce on them. This can aid in creating a sense of normality as well. Furthermore, with both parents under the same roof, the children can maintain regular communication and interaction with both of them. This is a critical way to help children cope with their parents’ divorce, while allowing both parents to stay up to date on their children’s lives. At the same time, being in the presence of their children may motivate couples to minimize their animosity and remain on good terms.

Potential problems of living together

Nonetheless, there are potential downsides to such a living arrangement.

Ironically, if not handled well, living together may impact the spouse’s children negatively. Aware that their parents are divorced, children would be especially sensitive with matters concerning both parents. For example, they may not dare to request for a family dinner altogether, or ask both parents to attend their graduation ceremony. They may feel burdened to act as mediators between their parents, which can be stressful and exhausting for the children in the long run. This is especially so if the couple has not worked out practical arrangements and tensions remain high in the household.

There are practical issues to be addressed with living together as well. How will the house be divided, particularly for common areas? Who will pay the utilities bill? Who will pay for maintenance and repair to the home when necessary? From a legal perspective, the issues may be even more complex. Will the able-bodied husband continue to provide child support and maintenance? Will the spouse without care and control over the child be allowed to be responsible for the child’s day to day welfare? Such questions need to be tackled prior to settling on a shared living arrangement.

Advice for divorced couples considering living together

It is highly advisable for couples considering such an option after divorce to sit down and clearly work out all practical aspects of the living arrangements. For example, they need to decide if the arrangement will be temporary pending purchase of their own apartments, or whether it would be permanent. It would be ideal if the couple can agree to place the child’s interests above and beyond that of their own, and to work things out from this common understanding. If necessary, such discussions can take place in the presence of a family counsellor or mediator.

Following discussions among themselves, the couple should also explain the situation to their child. The couple should explain the rationale for their decision to live together and how this will impact the child. Reassurance should be given that the child need not have to play sides between both parents. At the same time, the couple should hear out any concerns or wishes their child may have to ensure that the child has a voice in their new way of life as well.

Living under the same roof after divorce is certainly not for everyone, especially for divorces that involved violence. However, it may be a workable solution for some, especially in the short term for those with several children and who wish to reduce disruptions to their children’s lives.


Photo Reference: Jakob Montrasio