Should Couples Live Separately Or Together Through A Divorce Or Dissolution? – List Of Factors Crucial In Each Case
The parties agree the marriage is not working; the decision is made by one of the parties to initiate a divorce proceeding. Do the parties live separately or together during the pendency of a divorce? There are many factors to be considered:
Finances: If there is adequate income available to cover the living expenses of two (2) households, it is probably easier and less emotionally draining to live separate and apart while the divorce is taking place. This arrangement allows each party to experience what it feels like to live alone and to take care of one’s home or apartment without the physical assistance or presence of the other party. If the money or income is not sufficient to pay for two (2) households, some parties will elect to move in with a relative or friend.
Children: If there is a child or children, both parties may want to remain in the marital residence or apartment especially if each party is seeking “custody” of the minor child or children. Even though “abandonment” is not recognized as a cause of action in the State of Ohio, the perception remains that if Husband/Father or Wife/Mother vacates the marital residence, he or she is “abandoning” the other spouse and the child or children of the marriage. And, if either party moves from the residence, there is a perception that the vacating party is not interested in keeping the marital property. That perception could be unfounded as the party moving from the home may be doing so to avoid the occurrence of domestic violence. Again, if a party chooses to relocate from the marital residence or apartment, that party is not “abandoning” the family and is not relinquishing rights to later re-occupy the home or apartment.
Domestic Violence: If one party is physically abusive and/or places the other party in fear of serious imminent harm, the offending party may be ordered by the Court to vacate the marital property. Unfortunately, this cause of action can be used successfully by either party (but usually the Wife/Mother) to get an advantage in a custody dispute. I remind my clients to walk away if they are being antagonized or provoked into a confrontation or altercation. Take a walk, visit a neighbor, or take the children to a park or playground to give time for “cooling off” to take place.
Relationship of the Parties: If there is anger, extreme hurt and/or disappointment between the parties, it may not be possible for them to remain under the same roof. On the other hand, if the parties are reasonable and respectful of one another, it may be tolerable to remain together during the divorce process. If the decision is made to remain together in the marital residence or apartment, there are some basic issues to be addressed:
- Bedrooms: Are there enough bedrooms or living spaces for the parties to have separate sleeping quarters? It would obviously be more difficult for two parties to remain together in a one-bedroom apartment than to remain together in a three (3) to four (4) bedroom home.
- Bathrooms: Are there enough bathrooms to permit each party to have privacy and space while preparing for work outside the home or preparing for the day within the home? If there is only one (1) bathroom, a schedule may have to be established so that each party can prepare for bedtime and getting up and ready the next morning.
- Paying the Household Bills: The Courts are interested in having the parties maintain the status quo. How were the household bills paid in the past? The parties should continue to pay for the mortgage or rent, taxes, and monthly utilities/expenses as they have done in recent months or years. If the parties cannot resolve this particular issue, one of the parties may file a Motion to Modify Temporary Support Order or to initiate a Temporary Support Order.
- Children: Whether the parties remain in the same residence or apartment or whether they decide to live separately, they should work together to establish a parenting time schedule for the benefit of the minor child or children. A starting point is to study and examine the Standard Order of Parenting Time for the relevant county wherein the parties reside. Then, some fine tuning may be in order depending upon the work schedule or schedules of the parties. For example, firemen and healthcare professionals often have difficulty exercising parenting time on alternate weekends as they may have to work on weekends and evening or night shifts. The parties may have to cooperate with one another to develop or establish a parenting plan that will accommodate each party’s work schedule.
My Own Dilemma: During the Fall of 1992, I faced the same dilemma I am addressing with this article. My former spouse and I had sold our marital residence; and, I had purchased a landominium in Beavercreek, Ohio. He was waiting to relocate with his employer at the time. We decided that we could live together during the divorce proceeding. After all, the home had an adequate number of bedrooms and bathrooms so privacy was ensured without having a schedule. We had no minor children so there were no issues with “custody” or parenting time schedules. There was no issue regarding domestic violence and we were as “reasonable” as we could be under the circumstances. But, after two to three months, this living arrangement became untenable for me. Why? Because I was still preparing the evening meal as I had done for many, many years. But, I was becoming irritable and resentful when my former Husband chose to stay “out and about” after work rather than come home to eat our evening meal. In hindsight, I wanted to “stay married” and he clearly had “moved on”! Solution: I told him the living arrangement was no longer comfortable or “okay” with me and I gave him a reasonable time to move from my home.
Residency During Divorce Pendency Conclusion
In conclusion, when a couple is in the process of a divorce or a dissolution, the issue of where the parties shall live during the pendency of the proceeding is an issue that must be addressed taking into consideration the factors discussed herein. Each case is fact-specific and there is no one solution for all cases. Anyone facing this dilemma should discuss housing options/alternatives with their counsel, therapist, family members, and trusted friends. Talking with an experienced family law and divorce attorney is imperative. The ramifications of living together or separately vary considerably based on the facts of each situation. Don’t make a mistake. Get professional advice before making this major decision.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.