In difficult economic times, many couples feel stuck – living under the same roof while separating or actively pursuing a divorce. This article is about managing a difficult living situation while awaiting finalization of your divorce.

You’re stuck living together because:

  • You don’t have the finances to pursue a divorce or to even live in separate dwellings.
  • You and your mate don’t get along but you both care about the kids. You both want them 50/50%. Behind the scenes it’s a battle between you. It’s going to require some professionals to help you resolve your childcare options. Neither of you is willing to go til the settlement is final.
  • You don’t want to leave because your mate has been untrustworthy with the finances in the past and you don’t know if s/he’ll be fair if you move out now.
  • You’re upside down in your mortgage or one of you lost your job. You both know the economy has to turn around before the family will be stable enough to withstand two households.
  • You don’t know what you will be able to afford or how the finances will shake out once the divorce is final – so you feel you have to stay in the house together til then.

What should you do? What are you options and how should you proceed? Here are some tips to guide your actions:


  1. Decide Living Arrangements As Quickly and Equitably As Possible

Whether you decide to live on separate floors in the same house or to simply use a family or guest room for one of you, remember, this is a temporary solution. You each want space and need space. Make arrangements where you have fully privacy in separate bedrooms and also bathrooms if at all possible. So you do not invade one another’s space take all your clothes and toiletries out of the other person’s space. Never go into the other person’s sleeping quarters without invitation. It will feel like an invasion of privacy.


The best arrangement I’ve seen is where one person lives on the top floor and one lives on the lower level, with both sharing living, dining and kitchen in the middle, although laundry was also on the lower level. I’ve known a few couples that arrange with a neighbor, family member or nearby friend to have a sleeping room for the evenings they are not with the children. They often need to be in the house during the day due to an office at home or childcare needs.


  1. Learn To Be Strategic, Not Reactive

Once you’ve decided to separate – even in the same house – take your emotions elsewhere. Talk to a friend, counselor or coach. As much as possible handle conversations more like business meetings and stay focused on scheduling, tasks and other necessary family arrangements unless you are unusually amicable and can attend family functions together. Remember, your focus is on keeping the peace while you are waiting to deal with the larger questions of the divorce and settlement. Take your arguments out of the house or “table them” until you can officially negotiate. This will most likely happen with your Collaborative Team when you are ready and financially able to move forward. This is for the sake of your children and your own sanity.


  1. Negotiate as much as you can “at the kitchen table”

If you cannot afford a divorce or if you want to keep costs down, you need to do as much negotiating as you can together about the child-care arrangements, living arrangements, and short-term financial agreements (e.g. bill paying, grocery money, etc.) Keep your discussions focused on resolving these matters at hand.


  1. Mutually Create Short-term Child Care Arrangements

Prior to an official negotiation with your Collaborative Team, or the involvement of a neutral child specialist, it’s best to set a child-care schedule and then stick to it. You will probably also want to decide who can take care of the children if one of you has to work or goes out for a certain number of hours (e.g. Is it a family member, a neighbor, a babysitter, or do you have to give your mate first right of refusal.)


  1. Birdnest For the Children’s Sake

Birdnesting means you leave the house when your mate is in charge of the children and he/she does the same for you. Each of you stays outside the home as much as possible during the other person’s time. Some people even stay over night with family or friends; others may have to come home to sleep after the children are in bed.


  1. Keep Your Children Out of the Middle

Your kids will most likely pick up on the difficulties you are having, but do not ask them to play go-between. Do not ask them to take sides. Do not argue in front of them. They need your reassurance that both of you love them and that adults sometimes have disagreements and behave badly, but you will always care for them together.


  1. Stop All Reactive and Unnecessary Emailing

Some divorcing couples use email communication while living in the same house because talking is just too painful. Emailing and texting work when it is limited to things like scheduling. However, I’ve worked with some very responsible communicators who over-communicate during this stressful time. They respond to every single email and every single emotional outburst with lengthy explanations and often with a lecturing tone. “If only you would…….” Or “I’m just trying to ……why don’t you see that I’m……..” Often this sets up a viscous cycle of emails and the communications deteriorate. Email only to deal with scheduling or other relevant tasks at hand. Leave out any reaction to your mate’s negative emotional outbursts. If an email from your mate is purely emotional, you might just ignore it and blip it.


  1. Be Trustworthy About Money and Managing Household Upkeep

You are still married until the settlement is finalized so continue to do your part. You’ll want to fully participate to maintain any equity in your home and to keep your credit scores as good as possible, even with difficult economic circumstances. Consult your Collaborative Attorney for short-term fixes until you are able to move forward with the divorce.

  1. Practice Patience and Good Self Care

You want a divorce and it is hard to wait. Your highest self wants to handle this difficult relationship and situation with grace and dignity. Practice patience and self-care while you set up the most Collaborative Divorce process possible. Stay in touch with your attorney and keep him/her apprised periodically. They will be ready to go to work for you, along with the Collaborative Team, whenever you are ready.





Additional Resources

When You Feel Stuck—or Choose to Remain—In a Difficult Relationship With Someone Who Will Not or May Not Change

7 Tips When You Resent Being In the Lead With a Colleague, Employee or Mate

When Men Don’t Fully Engage, It Deprives the Women in Your Life of Growth

When You Are Ready—Reach Out for a Complimentary Call to Explore Your Needs here

Dr. Jan Hoistad