3 rules for those cohabitating during a New Jersey divorce

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Divorce means the formal end of a marriage and also major changes to the family unit. For many divorcing couples in New Jersey, a drastic change in living arrangements is usually the first major step in a divorce. Those who have decided to end marriage may find it very difficult to continue living together, so one spouse may move out as early as possible.

However, there are many situations in which immediately establishing separate households isn’t the best approach. Perhaps the family has young children that require a lot of attention or an older child with special needs. Maybe the household finances cannot support two rent payments every month. If divorcing spouses decide to continue cohabitating, they will likely benefit from having some rules in place to make the situation as healthy and manageable for the family as possible.

Clear expectations for each spouse

Many divorces occur in part because people are tired of an uneven division of financial or practical responsibility for the household. Therefore, those cohabitating in the early stages of divorce can potentially stave off major conflicts by discussing what each spouse will contribute to the household. From a written agreement about how the spouses will share financial responsibility to a breakdown of household and childcare responsibilities, the use of clear, written plans for dividing obligations can help keep conflict to a minimum.

Specific boundaries for privacy and peace

It is generally advisable to arrange for each spouse to have separate sleeping or living spaces whenever possible. Otherwise, a very specific schedule of when they will use shared amenities can help stave off conflict. Certain activities, like discussing the situation with friends, may need to occur elsewhere so that the home doesn’t become openly hostile toward one spouse or the other. Many couples also choose to have rules in place about dating so that neither brings a new romantic interest back to the house that they share.

Conflict resolution rules

Inevitably, those cohabitating during divorce may find themselves butting heads, possibly about the divorce itself if not the challenges of living together. Having a very clear plan about how to handle those conflicts, such as committing to written communication during a dispute or having a third party come in to help navigate the disagreements will help prevent explosive fights and may make it easier for people to preserve the peace until they can begin living separately after the divorce.

Taking the time to plan ahead carefully can make the most challenging aspects of divorce, like cohabitating after filing for divorce, more feasible for a family to overcome.

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