Creating Separate Spaces During Divorce
When couples plan a divorce, they are not always living apart. In fact, more often than not, they are still living together and have not yet figured out how to create separate lives in different places. Many states actually require that a husband and wife live separate and apart for a period of time prior to filing for divorce. Other states seem to support moving people apart and getting divorced quickly.
When divorce looms on the horizon, there may be times when the court will enter an order providing that one parent have “exclusive possession of the marital residence.” This is usually due to some level of conflict that requires the court to step in and separate the living spaces.
The truth is that most people considering or starting the divorce process are often focused on getting divorced before they have clearly thought through their separate wishes and needs. Who gets the house and who has to move are important questions, but couples need to evaluate them in terms of how a final settlement agreement might look once assets and debts are divided equitably as most divorce statutes require.
During the time while the divorce is in process, it’s a good idea to create some separate living spaces so that each person can think clearly and calmly. This can be done with separate bedrooms or with separate homes. Individual caves help people create new boundaries and provide quiet time for each person to think about all the things that come up when going through divorce. Physical separation is important and can be as simple as sleeping in separate beds and eating at different times. Sharing an existing living space can be simpler for children too until all the details are settled, as long as both parents work out times which they can spend alone with the kids.
The cost of separate households is often an issue. Deciding what each person can afford and taking responsibility for individual living costs is part of the process. Sometimes there are family members or friends in the area who can offer space, sometimes a separate apartment is necessary, and sometimes a home really can be divided up for a while. Any decisions need to be made mutually with the understanding that each person is still responsible to provide for the other until there is a final decree or a court order. This is probably not the time to make long-term commitments regarding housing arrangements. It usually takes at least six months to a year to really get clear about one’s needs and available resources.
Be creative. Be respectful of each other’s needs and boundaries, and think carefully about incurring any long term additional expenses during this period. How you work through this time so that you come apart gently and respectfully is a character-building, family-healing process that serves you and your children well in the long run.