When a couple separates, one of the first considerations are usually living circumstances moving forward. We have recently seen an increase in the number of family law clients who have chosen to remain living with their ex after they have separated, on both short-term and long-term bases.
Why do people continue to live together under one roof once separated?
For a lot of people, the thought of continuing to live with your ex after you have decided to separate sounds like a nightmare. However, there are a number of practical reasons why people choose to remain in the same residence following separation, such as:
- Financial reasons – while the long-term plan is generally to live apart, financial pressures may mean that a separating couple are unable to afford to live apart until the primary residence is sold. People generally take on a mortgage factoring in the income of both partners, so that one person may not be able to afford to continue to pay the mortgage on their income alone. It may be that one parent is currently unemployed while providing full-time care to the children, so they are unable to secure rental accommodation without proof of a steady income.
- Difficulty finding alternate accommodation – finding appropriate alternative accommodation can take time, particularly if you are trying to find somewhere close to your work and your children’s school, or somewhere that will allow pets. It can also take time to obtain all the furniture and other general household items required to set up a new home, particularly if you do not have funds immediately available for those items.
- Stability for the children – separation can be very stressful time for children as well as parents. Couples who are separating may decide to continue living together while they come to an agreement about parenting arrangements moving forward, so there is a plan in place for the transition to co-parenting. Children will adjust to becoming a two-household family much more readily if a clear routine is established from the outset, rather than parenting arrangements being ad-hoc and uncertain.
How do I prove I was separated under one roof so I can get a divorce?
You must be separated from your ex for a period of 12 months before you can apply for a divorce, however some or all of this 12-month period may occur while you are separated under the same roof.
In your divorce application you need to address how there has been a change in your relationship to show that you and your ex have separated. Changes you should address include:
- Changes to the financial aspects of your relationship – opening separate bank accounts, closing joint bank accounts, changing the beneficiaries to your superannuation and Will;
- Changes to the nature of the household – moving into separate bedrooms, changing shared email addresses or social media accounts, changing household duties and childcare arrangements; and
- Changes to social aspects of the relationship – ceasing a sexual relationship, telling family and friends about your separation, attending social outings separately.
The Court will consider whether you and your ex live and act independently so that you do not act like a couple anymore, even though you continue to live under the same roof.