how to separate under the same roof
It is not uncommon for couples to argue about finances – ranging from disagreements about how to spend the household money, arguments over spending habits, and debts.
The cost-of-living crisis, however, has made the situation worse by seriously impacting upon struggling relationships. Nearly 60% of people say the cost-of-living crisis has negatively impacted upon their relationship – with 30% admitting they are only staying with their partner because they fear “not being able to afford living alone”, according to a new survey.
People are not only cutting back on luxuries, such as meals out, but also reducing essential spending on energy, fuel, and food. Many households are also now having to use up savings or go into debt to meet day to day costs.
Due to the rising costs of food, utility bills, interest rates, rents, and mortgages, it is no longer realistic for many couples to create two households from one. Consequently, couples who previously would have chosen to move out or divorce, are now choosing to separate under the same roof due to financial uncertainty and the fear of not being able to support themselves alone. There is also the cost of legal advice and the affordability of the divorce itself.
If you are one of many who has decided to remain living under the same roof because you simply cannot afford to live apart financially; here are our practical tips on how to deal with a separation under the same roof:
Discuss whether you will separate formally or informally.
You may consider entering into a Separation Agreement to formalise your separation. The benefits of entering into a Separation Agreement are:
- It gives you time to think before taking the important decision to divorce.
- You agree that you do not have to live together as a couple.
- It shows that you both consider the relationship to have ended or is ending, and the date it ended.
- An agreement can make separation easier for children as you are choosing to agree arrangements between yourselves rather than have legal battles.
- It is flexible – you can decide what you would like to include.
- If you stick to an agreement, the agreement can remove the conflict out of the breakdown of the relationship as the both of you know where you stand emotionally and financially.
- An agreement offers a degree of clarity and legal protection as it is a contract.
- It makes any subsequent divorce proceedings easier as arrangements have been agreed in advance.
- Although they are not legally binding in the same way as a Consent Order, the court will usually uphold a Separation Agreement if it was properly and fairly negotiated.
Talk to your children about the arrangement.
Talk to your children and tell them what is happening. Do not let them figure it out for themselves. Even young children will pick up on the fact that something has changed between you and your spouse/partner. Use age-appropriate language to explain that while you and your spouse may no longer be in a relationship, your roles as parents won’t change at all,
Most important of all – tell them they DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY.
Create a parenting schedule.
If you have children together and plan on co-parenting, you should discuss how their lives are going to be organised. This may include who is going to take them to and from school and any extracurricular activities. Also, talk about events that your children may have in the future: are you and your spouse comfortable going to those together?
It is a good idea to keep a calendar in a prominent place which tracks all the children’s activities and lists who has responsibility for what.
Build and respect each other’s boundaries.
It is necessary to build boundaries, so issues do not get blurred or confused. People need physical and breathing space so that they can really think through their options.
This includes not having sexual relations with each other. Having sexual relations with your spouse/partner after you have made the decision to separate only confuses the situation and can lead to hurt feelings and acrimony.
If you are already in a new relationship, it is usually a good idea to keep communication with your new partner discreet and private.
Bringing a new person into the home you still share with your ex-spouse/partner can be disrespectful to your relationship, but it can also be very confusing for any children as well.
Sleep in separate rooms.
This might mean someone using the guest room or converting an office space into a bedroom. The important thing is that you both have your own separate, private places to go to.
Divide up household chores.
Decide who is going to take over which household chores. Sit down and write out a list of responsibilities and agree who will take over what.
Agree about mealtimes.
Are you both comfortable eating together, or would you rather stagger mealtimes?
Separate your finances.
Divide up monthly expenses to see who is going to pay for what. If you have a joint account, now is a good time to close it and open separate accounts.
Discuss who is going to pay for which household expenses from the separate accounts.
Now is a good time to stop paying for each other’s personal items.
For more tips on the practical and financial considerations prior and during separation have a look at our article: “How to prepare for divorce or separation”
Try to support each other.
Although your relationship is breaking down or has broken down, remember you are both in the same boat trying to make the most of your situation. Supporting each other is crucial to get through the tough times.
Discuss how you will handle social situations.
You need to discuss what you will tell friends and family about your separation.
What happens if you are both invited to a social event. Do you go together, or alone?
Decide on what you and your spouse/partner are comfortable with, especially if this is a trial separation.
Frequently asked questions.
Who has rights to the house during the separation?
If the house is in joint names then both parties have rights to the property during the separation. A separation will not affect how the property is held. If the house is in the name of one person only, it is worthwhile registering a Matrimonial Home Rights with the Land Registry. This will protect a non-owner’s interest in the home until it is decided how the relationship will be dealt with. Home Rights protect a party from having to leave a property where they have not been able to contribute to the property financially.
It is important to get specialist advice about your property rights and options.
Who stays in the house when separating?
It is possible for both parties to continue living in the same house and be separated. Neither party is obliged to leave the house if they do not want to.
How long should an in house separation last?
There is no minimum or maximum period that an in house separation can last. If children are involved, it would probably be better that it is a temporary rather than a long term option.
Who pays the bills during a separation?
If you are still living under the same roof albeit separated, the bills should ideally be paid in the same contributions as during the marriage or civil partnership. The purpose of separating under the same roof is to preserve the status quo as much as possible and avoid any new expenses.
Should you move out when separating?
If there are safeguarding concerns for children, or there is any type of domestic abuse and/or violence, including psychological harm, you should consider your safety first and contact the Police. You should also take legal advice about excluding the abusive party from the property.
If you are a man affected by domestic abuse you can call Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm – Monday to Friday.
How should I behave during a separation?
- Be courteous and respectful.
- Don’t speak badly about your ex either to the children or on social media.
- Keep lines of communication open and exchange important information.
- Try to avoid conflict.
- Consider engaging a third party like a relationship counselling to assist you with any issues you cannot agree upon.
- Discuss how new partners or relationships should be handled.
- Put the children first. Make sure the children feel safe and secure.