Since it is usually a very bad idea to move out of the marital residence once you and your spouse decide to divorce, most couples need to find a way to continue living together until everything is settled. This can be a very stressful challenge, as what was once your home often becomes a constant battleground. After all, if you were able to get along with your spouse just fine, you probably wouldn’t be seeking a divorce.
Whatever the reason, be it financial pressure or simply ensuring that your rights are protected, you will need to find some way to get along. Here are several tips that may make living with your soon-to-be ex a little easier and reduce some of the hostility inevitable to divorcing couples.
Cooler heads prevail
Arguments are a part of any relationship, though during a divorce, that may seem like the only kind of interaction you have with your spouse. If you have to spend months — sometimes even more than a year — waiting for a divorce to finalize (particularly with the mandatory waiting periods many states have in place), it can be a very unpleasant home environment.
You and your spouse need to make a concerted effort to communicate effectively without it devolving into a fight. Being overly courteous, practicing civility, focusing on respect, admitting when you were wrong, not trying to make your spouse feel guilty and avoiding the blame game will go a long way to help improve communication while you are stuck living together.
Be careful around the kids
This is especially true if you have children in the home. Constantly fighting around your children causes them unnecessary stress during an already emotionally trying time. By practicing self-control and anger management, you will not only help keep your blood pressure at a reasonable level for the time it takes to get a divorce, but you will also make the transition to having separated parents easier on your kids.
You both need to realize that you will be able to move on with your lives soon enough — the less contentious your household is, the easier it will be to come to settlement and the faster you can move on with your life.
Respect personal space
It can be useful to designate certain areas of the home as “me” space and “you” space. You will each want a place to be on your own when you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get away without having to worry about your spouse bothering you. While some household areas should remain public, if you have a large enough residence, it can be easy to designate a basement as yours and the upstairs as hers. Set boundaries and respect what they mean, otherwise they are pointless and will lead to further resentment for breaking them.
It can also be useful for each of you to get into a regular routine of when you are home and when you are away, which can then be planned around accordingly. If you and your spouse’s communication has degraded to the point where you can barely stand seeing each other, avoid conflict by not seeing each other.
Create a realistic living budget and be transparent with finances
It is common to think your spouse is trying to slowly siphon marital money, and while this can occasionally happen, it isn’t by any means the norm. However, accusing your spouse or even just having that fear in the back of your mind can create more contention while living within the household.
To allay these fears and keep up on both you and your spouse’s finances, create a budget that accounts for all of the shared household spending, clearly state who will pay what, separate names off of joint accounts and be open about any spending. If possible, keep track of all spending (including personal) and go over these numbers on a regular basis. Being transparent about your spending habits will be useful throughout the divorce negotiations and cut down on arguments over money.
Take on bills proportionate to your incomes
If you typically cover all of the household bills, it is time to split the expenses. By covering the majority of the payments, you may be setting a precedent that you can afford to continue doing so after the divorce. Once the households are separated , however, you may not be able to afford long-term support payments.
It is best to divide any shared bills according to your incomes: If you earn 70 percent of the household income, take on that percent of the bills and allocate the rest to your spouse.
Living together during a divorce is not a fun situation, but it is usually the most cost-effective financially and helps make sure you don’t miss out on any of your rights when it comes to asset division or custody. Figuring out how to do so without ripping each other’s heads off — that is the real challenge.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”