Sometimes, couples in a distressed marriage may find themselves living together while separated, legally or otherwise, for a pro-longed period of time. Perhaps this is because the marriage is not working out, yet both parties agree that a dissolution of marriage is pre-mature and hope still exists to preserve the marriage. Perhaps they have children and want to minimize the negative impacts of a divorce on their kids. Or maybe there are religious reasons preventing them from moving forward. Sometimes, living separately may simply be impossible due to financial challenges, such as having to wait to sell a home. In all of these cases, living together while “apart”, can be extremely challenging. In the event that you find yourself in such a situation, here are some useful tips for living together while separated.
Legal Separation in the State of Florida
It is important to note that in the state of Florida, there are no statutes for “legal separation”. It is not recognized in Florida like it is in many other states. If you want to separate from your spouse in Florida (i.e. live apart but remain married), then you can do so without filing a petition with the court. Outside of Florida, “legal separation” is a popular alternative to a divorce when couples are unsure about the state of their marriage but wish to establish certain responsibilities regarding things like debt, financial assets, child custody/timesharing, and/or child support and alimony. Such couples outside of Florida, who are legally separated, often live separately. But even many of these individuals may still find themselves living together under the same roof on a short- or long-term basis. In all cases, the tips described herein can help protect one’s rights now, in the future, and make living together while separated, legally or figuratively, better for all involved.
Tips for Couples Living Together While Separated
- Be proactive, not reactive. Always begin with a clear understanding on the intent of the separation. Is it meant to be temporary or permanent? What is the goal? Make sure that you are both on the same page. If you reside outside of Florida and are considering a divorce, you may want to consider a legal separation.
- It is best, especially in cases of legal separation, where a dissolution is eminent, or tensions are running high, to not wear your wedding rings. Similarly, it is wise to let close friends and family know your circumstances – to share with them that you are living together, separately.
- Just as is the case in a divorce, when establishing ground rules or communicating anytime, try to remove your emotions from the equation. Utilize patience, compromise and basic consideration. When disagreements occur, try not to get angry, but put yourself in the other’s place and try to understand their point of view.
- Try to think of your ex as a roommate.
- Secure your personal devices (computer, phone, etc. You may wish to change your passwords).
- Identify or create a private space. This may require a change in the use of a room or even the reconfiguration of a space. A bedroom is the most important space, as it is an important retreat that may be needed anytime. Both parties should agree to respect one another’s private space, whether that is a bedroom, office or other agreed-upon areas.
- In some cases, couple may wish to privatize their phones for business or personal purposes.
- Discuss schedules and maybe even create one jointly, using a calendar. If you have children, a parenting schedule is especially important. Split time fairly for taking responsibility of the kids including transportation to school and activities, baths, bedtime regimens, etc. This has the added benefit of preparing a child for what may become a permanent routine.
- Establish a budget. This can be challenging in cases where there is a single breadwinner or a large discrepancy in earnings between one individual and another. Again, courteous negotiation will make things simpler and easier for all parties.
- Utilize separate checking and credit card accounts and do your own shopping, including for everyday items, like groceries.
- Prepare your own meals.
- Do your own laundry
- Establish shared household chores.
- Try not to intrude on your former partner’s privacy.
- Avoid socializing with them and overlapping gatherings such as church, parties, restaurants, etc.
- Avoid intimacy for the sake of intimacy, only. Such arrangements complicate things and can lead to more hurt.
- Avoid dating and/or bringing dates home. It’s just not a wise idea in such situations.
- Have an “escape plan” for times when tensions rise. This can be retreating to your bedroom, going for a walk or visiting a friend.
- When a problem arises, remember to revert back to using compromise and try to keep your emptions out of it.
- If your situation at home becomes untenable, do not hesitate to consult a legal advisor.
Living together while separated can be a challenging, emotionally-charged experience and difficult for even the most patient and level-headed individuals. If you need assistance in such circumstances, contact the family law attorneys at Parra Harris Law. We are deeply experienced in matters of divorce, custody, and other complex areas of family law. Call us at (904) 900-1617 or email us at [email protected].