Is there a developing trend of couples remaining in the same house after the divorce has been filed or even after the divorce is final? That was the question posed to me by host Peter Dunn during a recent segment of the “Pete the Planner Radio Show” on 93.1 WIBC. We both had seen various stories in popular media about divorcing celebrity couples remaining in the same home, most recently with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner who filed for divorce after 10 years of marriage.
So, is this a developing trend? In my practice, I have seen more couples at least considering living in the same house after filing for divorce. But why would two people who cannot be married anymore even think of residing in the former marital residence once the divorce was filed? Let’s consider a couple of possibilities.
Divorced, and Still Living Together?
Some couples believe that it is important to maintain as much stability and security for younger children during the time the parents are going through the legal process of divorce. Everyone continuing to live in the same residence is one way to maintain the status quo for the children; they can continue to have the same schedule, ride the same school bus, play with the same neighborhood friends and not go through the potential trauma of a major move.
Clearly, this can only work if the parents are able to avoid creating tension and fighting while continuing to share the same roof. Also, at some point, the parents will live apart with separate homes and lives, and the children will have to go through that transition eventually. Is delaying that transition best?
From a financial perspective, remaining in the same residence can save the cost of maintaining two residences while the divorce is proceeding. It also avoids what could be a costly temporary move for one of the spouses. It can also give the couple time to decide if either can afford to keep the marital residence or want to keep the residence once the divorce has been finalized.
Keep in mind that it is often nearly impossible for someone to obtain a mortgage to purchase a home while the divorce is not resolved. The choice is then to rent a residence until the divorce is final and finances are straightened out. I have seen couples remain together until the marital residence is sold, which can be after the divorce is final.
Anyone considering remaining together with their spouse or ex-spouse in the marital residence should seek the advice of his or her attorney. It is important for both parties to understand what they are getting themselves into before making that decision. For example, if there is a history of abuse of any kind, remaining together in the same residence is not likely a realistic or wise option. Also consider what will happen when one of the spouses starts dating. When I have seen a couple remaining in the same residence after divorce, it has never been for more than a year; longer arrangements should also be discussed with an attorney.