In Texas, there is no legal requirement that spouses live separately and apart under different roofs before they can file for a divorce. As a result, spouses contemplating a divorce in Texas can choose to live together in order to save money since moving out of their home would mean that both spouses would need to pay for separate households. Given the period of transition before a divorce and the uncertain financial future that could await them, spouses may make the decision not to physically separate while they begin the divorce process. While they might save money in the short-term, there are definite risks to this approach that naturally arise when two spouses are living together while they are going through an adversarial legal process against each other.
You Should Consider Your Own Situation in Making a Decision
There is no one correct answer about whether you should continue to live with your spouse during a divorce. Everything depends on your own specific situation. If you are involved in a hostile and contentious divorce, it may be better to move out entirely. However, that is not always a financial reality for some couples. Many married couples struggle to pay all their expenses for one household. The difficulties will be compounded when each spouse needs to pay for their own separate set of household expenses.
You Need to Plan Ahead for a Number of Things
You should not continue living under the same roof unless you have extensively planned in advance for the situation. Emotions and disagreements can take over and move the relationship into uncharted territory. Although you cannot control all facts and circumstances, you can make a plan to help you manage them as they emerge.
You should discuss this plan in advance with the other spouse. Their willingness to work with you on a plan could help determine whether you are able to live together pending the divorce. Even if the other spouse will not agree, and you cannot afford to move out, you should still have your own personal plan.
You Should Not Live with the Other Spouse Permanently and Indefinitely
Part of your plan should include an end date to the arrangement. Some spouses are not prepared to move out at all, even after the divorce is finalized. However, unless you absolutely cannot afford it, you should not be prepared to live indefinitely with a spouse, especially when they are your former spouse. While you are living together, you would need to plan and move towards the day when you and your spouse will live apart. The latest that day should be is the date when the divorce is granted.
In addition, you also need to consider when the circumstances of the arrangement may be too much for you to endure. There are some situations in which your own legal protection and sanity are worth more than the money you can save by not maintaining two households. There may come a time when you and your spouse need to live apart, and you should know in advance when that point may be reached.
Communicate About Crucial and Key Issues
There is an extensive amount of communication necessary with the other spouse when you are living together during divorce. This is not always easy when the two of you are already at odds. However, communication and agreement ahead of time can help increase the chances the arrangement will be effective.
For example, you will need to communicate about money with your spouse when living together, especially since you may be taking steps to separate your finances as part of the divorce process. Because each spouse may need to contribute to the expenses of the household, open and direct communication about these expenses and the spouses’ contributions will be vital.
Establish a Household Budget
Both spouses will need to establish a joint household budget during this time. It may be difficult to agree with your spouse about spending limits during the larger divorce process. However, there is a reason why you are living together, and you would still need to save money. Each spouse may need to save money, both to pay their legal expenses, and for the time when they may eventually live apart. Many couples experience intense tensions over money and spending. Establishing a budget in advance and sticking to it can help reduce disagreements during a difficult time.
Write a Plan for Household Duties
Another topic of discussion needs to be how household duties will be divided. You are still maintaining a household, and each spouse needs to share in the burden. You should have a written plan ahead of time because you may not be able to agree about anything on a day-to-day basis. Both spouses should try to equally divide the household chores according to a written schedule.
You and your spouse need to remember that you are in the middle of a process that will end your marriage. Even though you are living under the same roof, you are taking steps to end the union. This is the time when you need to start establishing boundaries. Just because you are in the same household does not mean that you have the same relationship as you did before you decided on a divorce. In general, it may be the best idea to keep conversation to a minimum unless it is about something that requires communication. The more you talk, the more you may end up in conflict.
One particular thing you should try to avoid discussing is the actual divorce itself. You should not try to negotiate directly with your spouse while you are living together. First, it would cut out the role that an experienced divorce attorney would play. Second, direct negotiations could increase the chance you end up in a heated disagreement.
Try to Maintain Space and Boundaries
Each spouse should have their own personal space if possible. In addition, you should avoid discussing certain topics. It is not a time to re-litigate the decision for a divorce. Further, the spouses should avoid discussing their personal lives. You may need to work on a schedule with each other so that each person has the necessary time to be alone in the house. At the same time, you should not try to compete with your spouse in an effort to look better with children and win their favor.
Do Not Argue in Front of the Children or Put Them in the Middle
If there are children in the picture, it is crucial not to argue in front of them. Your children are already going through a difficult enough time with the divorce, and seeing their parents fight would make it even worse. If there are any tensions, you should discuss them privately or leave the house until you are able to calm down. Children will suffer psychologically when they see their parents going through a rough divorce. If you and your spouse cannot get along and avoid fighting, it is probably better not to live together.
Additionally, you should never put the children in the middle of any disagreement. Children should never be used as leverage in a custody dispute. Finally, do not speak negatively to or about the other in the presence of the children. Any conflict may damage the children, and it could permanently impact their relationship with one or both of the parents.
No Matter What, Do Not Lose Control of Your Emotions
Above all, you should make sure you remain calm and civil to the other spouse during the divorce process. If you are living together, there is a risk that close contact could lead to disagreements spiraling out of control. If a disagreement gets heated, the police may be called, and criminal charges may be filed. Make sure you have a plan to retreat to a safe space or leave the home if you begin to disagree with the other spouse. If you are charged with and convicted of domestic violence, it could both jeopardize your freedom and your custody situation if that is an issue.
It is easier said than done not to react to provocations and to remain calm during a difficult period. You will have times when you get angry at your spouse, and it is even more difficult to have to see them every day. After all, there is a reason why you are deciding to end your marriage.
Work with an Attorney During the Divorce
While an attorney won’t be able to play the role of a live-in mediator inside your home and help you avoid disagreements with your spouse while you’re still living together, they could counsel you on actions you need to avoid so as to not make the situation worse. Living under the same roof may impact your divorce. You should certainly let your attorney know that you plan on living with your spouse while the divorce is pending. They may give you advice on specific things to avoid during this time.
Contact a Brazoria County Divorce Attorney Today
The Texas divorce lawyers at Terry and Roberts can work with you on all aspects of the family law process. We can help you negotiate a divorce agreement or handle your case in court if it is necessary. You should always speak with a divorce attorney when contemplating a divorce because they can help make the divorce process easier for you.