Clients are often shocked when family lawyers tell them that if their marriage or de facto relationship is at an end, they and their spouse or partner can still live under the same roof, but can be deemed as being separated for the purpose of divorce or legally ending their de facto relationship. However, whilst they might live in the same house, there will be significant changes as to how that is done.
Now, it might seem strange that a couple can separate and be planning to have that marriage or de facto relationship legally ended, but all the while the spouses or partners are still living in the same house. But, when you have considered the many reasons why that is an arrangement that can suit both of them and their children especially if they are parents, then it does not seem such an odd situation.
Why Separating Couples May Choose To Remain Living Under the Same Roof
Let us first state that not every couple who is divorcing or ending their de facto relationship is at each other’s throats and wishing that the other were on a different planet, let alone a different house. In fact, the vast majority of divorces are conducted amicably with both parties able to communicate and settle their divorce without any rancour or animosity.
It, therefore, follows that when they agree their relationship or marriage is coming to an end, the idea of them living under the same roof for reasons which benefit both of them and their immediate family such as their children is not a ridiculous one, and is instead perfectly logical. As such, the reasons they might choose to do so include:
Stability And Well-Being Of Their Children: The most understandable reason why two parents would want to minimise the emotional fallout from their divorce as it affects their children is to remain living in the home where their children live.
Financial Reality: Not every couple is financially able to support two homes, and it, therefore, is common for a couple to continue to share their financial obligations relating to the home until financial matters are resolved through the divorce process albeit they should separate their other finances during this period.
Convenience: It may be that, for both parties, remaining in the home suits each of them for matters such as travel to work, distance from wider family, having to avoid address changes, and simply that both love the home and the area it is in and both wish to live there for as long as possible.
Defining “Separated But Living Under One Roof”
As you have read, there are positive reasons for a couple to remain living under one roof, however, under family law, if they wish to pursue a divorce or de facto relationship ending legally, they cannot simply carry on living as they were. To be considered separated certain criteria must be met, and the couple must be able to provide evidence of their separation if asked for it by the Family Court. This evidence should include:
• Sleeping in separate bedrooms
• Having no sexual relationship
• No longer conducting household duties together e.g. shopping
• Preparing and eating meals separately
• Not attending social functions and events together
• Having separate finances albeit both can contribute to the household costs and bills
• Having informed all relevant parties including family and friends of their separation
It should be noted that this list is not all the evidence that a couple can be asked to provide to prove that they have separated albeit living under one roof. Also, a court is likely to accept that occasionally eating together as a family if the couple has children for the benefit of those children, does not negate the fact that otherwise, the couple is living as separated.