What is separation under one roof?

If you have separated from your spouse but continue to live in the same household you may be separated under the one roof!

What does this mean for you if you want to arrange a property settlement or file for divorce?  The answer is very little.  You can still commence with a property settlement and, provided that you have been separated for the required 12 months, you can also file for divorce.

There is one additional step you will be required to take however if you file for a divorce and that is to provide the Court with evidence of your separation through an affidavit.

You will need to explain:-

  • The change in sleeping arrangements;
  • Any change in the division of performing household duties for one another;
  • Changes to shared activities and social outings together;
  • Whether your friends and family have been told of and know of your separation;
  • What Government departments or agencies you have advised of your separation and current living arrangements;
  • The division of household finances, whether you have separate bank accounts and how you may share or pay for liabilities and living expenses;
  • A brief explanation of why you continued to live together after separation and any changes you expect to make in the future to that arrangement;
  • Living arrangements for any minor children during the time you were living separately under the one roof.

Why do people live under the one roof once they have separated?

As a family lawyer I am increasingly seeing couples who are separated but continue to live under the one roof.  The two most common reasons I have been given for this are that people are doing it either for the children or out of financial necessity.  This may explain the reason but perhaps not the reality of two people trying to co-parent or cohabit while trying to move forward and start a new life.

The theory surrounding living separately under the one roof is great, and often founded in a very mature and sensible approach to parenting and finances.  I am often told that trying to reduce the impact of the separation on the children, and to increase the time spending and share the responsibility both parents have with the children is a driving force behind the decision.  Other people tell me that it just makes financial sense to stay together and share the financial burden without the additional cost of setting up a separate residence (at least until a property settlement is done).  These reasons all make perfect sense.

The reality however is sometimes very different. Living separately under the one roof can be hard, and very often what starts out with the best of intentions can go sour very quickly.  That is simply because there are often high levels of emotions and conflict when any couple separates.  For example, if there was a high level of conflict and a lot of arguing when you were together, ask yourself why that would change if you are separated under the one roof, and whether exposing the children to this is doing more harm than good.  Also, consider how you or your former spouse might react to you or them socialising or even starting to date while you are still under the one roof.  No matter how amicable a situation might seem it is often the little things that can bring it undone and the additional stress and strain it can place on you and your children can be enormous.

Having said that I can recall two particular clients who successfully lived separately under the one roof and managed to maintain a very civil and respectful relationship with their former spouse well beyond finalising their parenting and property matters.

Ultimately, the decision of whether you live separately under the one roof is yours and your former spouse’s to make, but if you do go down that path consider having a very candid discussion on how you might make it work, what you both want to achieve by it, and what mechanisms you can put into place to assist you reaching those goals.  Ultimately, the process and impact of separation affects everyone differently and in this particular instance you need to consider not only your own feelings and possible reactions but also those of your former spouse and the effect that may have on you and the children (if you have children).  Would having some “house rules” in place assist with the process?

If you wish to discuss separation, parenting or property matters please contact us to arrange for an initial consultation.


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