Most people assume that to be legally separated you must live in separate houses. This is not the case, and there are a variety of legitimate reasons why couples who have decided to separate continue to live in the same residence.
Sometimes it is only for a few days, other times it ends up being for years. It may be for financial reasons, for convenience, or to ensure stability for the children or for cultural or family reasons. Or perhaps, you just want a trial separation. Whatever the reason, it is important to be fully aware of the implications for you and how you can make a difficult situation better for both of you.
What is a legal separation?
A legal separation allows you to separate without getting a divorce or ending a civil partnership. If you are continuing to live at the same address as your former partner, it is not a bad idea to consider applying for a legal separation. In England and Wales, you will need to fill in a separation application and file it with the court. It is important to think carefully about the date of a separation, as this may impact on when a divorce might be granted, or it can affect your financial outcome. It is a good idea, if you are thinking of separating but staying under the same roof, to take legal advice early on.
How will living under the same roof impact my divorce?
If and when you file for divorce, and you can do this while still living at the same address as your former wife, husband or civil partner, you need to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You are also required to have been married for at least one year.
Drawing up a separation agreement
There are lots of practical aspects to living under the same roof while separated that might warrant drafting an agreement. Such an agreement would also be considered part of the evidence that the separation is a matter of fact and is consensual. Although a family court would not be required to make orders on the same terms as the separation agreement, it can be a useful guide if the former spouses wish to deal with certain aspects of their joint life after the divorce. The agreement might cover:
- Financial arrangements, including costs associated with the house and garden. Also maintenance payments if that is appropriate, and costs associated with any children.
- Children’s care arrangements including who makes their meals, drives them to activities, takes care of them in the evenings and at weekends.
- Use of the family car, together with arrangements for fuel, maintenance, and insurance. Also, use of other jointly owned items such as boats, caravans, trailers and even pets.
- Friends and family who come to visit or stay, such as new partners, mothers-in-law, etc., or which people your children may go out with or be at home alone with.
Separating from a spouse or partner is often an emotionally difficult time for you and the family. Deciding to remain living at the same location may make the separation easier or make it a lot harder. Thinking through some of the issues separately or together with your former partner will help to make the situation less stressful for everyone involved.
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (01904) 217225 or (020) 36332301 or (0161) 3273677 or email [email protected].