Can divorced parents live together? Exploring Legal Boundaries

Can divorced parents live together Exploring Legal Boundaries

Tips for co parenting in the same house

As a family law attorney, I talk with clients every day about custody and visitation options for kids when parents decide to split. When it comes to co parenting after divorce, continuing to live together isn’t for everybody but it does work for some exes. The question is: Does being divorced or separated but living together with child make sense for your family? And if you decide to try it, what parameters and expectations should the parents establish at the outset?

Parents ask our family law firm a variety of questions related to this topic, which I will elaborate on in the article below, including:

  • Should parents stay together for the sake of the child? (Not necessarily.)
  • Can a divorced couple live together for the kids? (Yes, but it doesn’t always work.)
  • When should parents live together after divorce? (It depends on their situation.)
  • What are some divorced but living together benefits? (Sharing finances and more.)
  • Is it possible to co-parent in the same house? (Yes, but it doesn’t always work.)
  • Should co parents spend time together? (It depends on the parents’ relationship.)
  • What are some guidelines for how to live with your ex in the same house? (Scroll to the bottom!)

Should parents stay together for the sake of the child?

First of all, I don’t believe in making blanket statements regarding what parents should and should not do. Every situation is unique. Before you and the other parent decide whether you should stay together for the sake of your child, it’s important to consider all of the facts as they pertain to you, the other parent, your child and your family dynamics.

I will say that the concept of staying together for the sake of the kids is something that sounds old fashioned in today’s society. That’s because when a couple separates, gets divorced or thinks about it, it’s usually because they aren’t on the same page anymore.

What makes these situations more challenging, especially when kids are involved, is when the parents really don’t get along. Kids are smart. They can sense animosity between their parents and know when their parents are unhappy, two things that can be very stressful for a child. When tensions escalate and verbal and/or physical abuse enters the picture, that can be extremely traumatizing for a child.

Can a divorced couple live together for the kids?

While rare, some couples do make it work, so they can if they choose to. However, co parenting in the same house arrangements typically work best for parents who get along exceedingly well and maintain a high level of respect for one another.

In my experience, divorced parents living together under the same roof is generally less than favorable for most children. This is because the child has always seen the relationship between their parents to be one of husband and wife. That relationship can take all forms, including happy, sad, crazy, they fight a lot, etc.  

It’s not natural for the child to now see the parents in a friendship or roommate relationship, while still living in the same house. This can be confusing for kids because they may view their parents as still being together as a couple, when in fact they’re not.

Some parents are afraid to upset their children with the news of impending divorce. Instead of ripping off the Band-Aid, they try to pretend everything is OK. In the extreme, they may “stay together for the sake of the child,” when it would probably be better to get the child into counseling to learn how to cope with the inevitable.

I will tell you this, in most cases, children hope to have their parents remain as an intact unit. In every amicus case I’ve ever done, I have always asked the kids, “If you could have anything, what would that one thing be? Their answers always sound something like, “That my parents would just stop fighting,” or “That my parents would just keep me out of the middle of this.”

And that’s across the board. Of the vast number of kids I’ve interviewed, that’s what they tell me. If you’re trying to project what your child wants (an image of an intact unit) and don’t want to rip the Band-Aid off (or you find it easier to stick with the status quo), I urge you to think long and hard about whether that’s the right move in the long run.

When should parents live together after divorce?

This question often comes up in relation to another frequently asked question: What are some divorced but living together benefits?

If the parties can check off the box of being parents who get along exceedingly well, while maintaining mutual respect for each other, the question of benefits can be considered.

One of the most obvious separated but living together benefits is that continuing to live together tends to be easier on a couple’s finances. Obviously, having to pay for two homes instead of one is going to cost more money collectively. That includes rent/mortgage, related utilities, insurance and other expenses involved with owning or renting a residence.

I do think it’s important to remember that many people can’t afford to exit a relationship right away, regardless of negative feelings toward the other person. You built careers, houses and other things in your life around a given expense table, right? Since most people spend what they earn, living separately may be difficult to manage financially at first, and it can take time to sort things out.

For some exes, another benefit may include continued intimacy. If that works for both parties more power to you. However, more often than not, continuing to be intimate after you’ve separated or divorced can be problematic for obvious reasons.

Under what circumstances is it possible to co-parent in the same house?

Three tips for co-parenting under the same roof

So, we’ve answered the question, “Can divorced parents live together?” (Sometimes it works, usually it doesn’t.) And we’ve touched on questions regarding when parents should consider living together after divorce or separation and why.

People also ask, “What are some guidelines for how to live with your ex in the same house?” To help ensure child living arrangements after divorce go smoothly when co-parenting under the same roof, consider the following tips:

Tip No. 1: Get clear on potential legal ramifications involved with living with an ex.

If you’re seriously planning on living in the same home with your ex and children for an extended period of time, I strongly recommend seeking legal advice from a family law attorney. Many issues can (and do) arise in these situations that you may not expect.

For one, since you are no longer married, issues could arise regarding property because the laws pertaining to property division and community property in Texas do not apply to unmarried couples. Texas also recognizes informal marriage, more commonly referred to as common law marriage. If you’re not careful, you could end up being married again if you meet the conditions that qualify a couple for informal marriage in Texas.

An attorney can explain what potential issues you might face in your particular situation and how to protect yourself and your property with contractual agreements, like a cohabitation agreement. Do yourself a favor and sit down with a lawyer for 30 minutes to review the specific facts of your case, what risks you may face and what you can do to avoid them.

Tip No. 2: Establish parameters regarding your relationship and how the household will be run.

People also ask, should co parents spend time together? It all depends on your relationship with the other parent, and it’s something you will need to figure out if you’re going to live together.

Divorced parents who plan to live together should take time to define what their new relationship will look like in their new co-parenting in the same house situation. Will you live like roommates who stick to their separate quarters for the most part or spend some set time together during the week for family dinners or other activities?

In addition, take time to figure out who will pay for what and who will be responsible for various household chores. Household bills need to be paid, groceries need to be stocked (will you share or buy your own?), dishes need to be washed, the house needs to be kept clean, the kids need their clothes laundered, and if you have a lawn, someone needs to tend to it.

Each parent needs their own space, so you will need to establish who sleeps where and agree on what’s OK regarding bringing new love interests into the home (if at all), as well as friends and family members. You may also want to designate certain spaces for storing items, who gets to park in the garage, etc. It all depends on your space and how you want to share it.

Tip No. 3: Decide how parental responsibilities will be handled.

If you’ve answered, “Yes,” to the question “Can you be divorced and still live together?” or “Can ex partners live together?” then it’s time to clarify how parenting responsibilities will be handled in your household. A few questions to consider, include:

  • Will your parenting time typically be solo or are their events or activities both parents will attend together?
  • How much one-on-one time will each parent be allotted with the child?
  • How will the parents divvy up dropping off/picking up the child from school, extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, etc.?
  • Will you spend any holidays together or bring your child to events with your separate families?
  • How will you handle issues where one parent feels like they’re taking on an excessive amount of parenting duties or not getting enough time alone with the child?
  • How will the parents handle disciplining the child?
  • If the child is having emotional issues, will both parents agree to bring the child to counseling?
  • Are you on the same page when it comes to the religious upbringing of the child?
  • What are some ground rules regarding bringing significant others into the shared home?

How parental rights and duties will be handled and who will be responsible for them should also be covered in your child custody orders, whether you live together or not. I encourage parents to speak with a child custody lawyer about their proposed living arrangements, how that will affect their custody orders and what modification to the orders may be beneficial.

Have other questions related to ‘Can divorced parents live together?’

If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and would like to speak with a divorce attorney Fort Worth, the team at the Sisemore Law Firm is here to help. To schedule a confidential case review with an attorney at our firm, please call our office at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

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