Separated But Living Together: Must-Follow Rules And Boundaries


Legal separation is an arrangement where a married couple lives apart but remains legally married.However, there can be several reasons such as financial instability, support for children, and property dispute why people may be separated but living together under the same roof.

In such situations, you need to avoid unnecessary arguments and set some rules and boundaries right from the beginning. Below are some rules to put in place once you begin your legal separation.

Can You Live Together After Legal Separation?

Living together after separation is not a new arrangement. But remember that legal separation is not the same as a divorce. You are no longer married to your spouse in a legal separation, but you are also not divorced, so you cannot get married to another person. Once the court grants legal separation, it will give clear orders regarding property division, child custody, and alimony—similar to a divorce settlement.

With a divorce, spouses lose several benefits such as health insurance and access to assets. On the other hand, legal separation helps you retain some of those benefits, which is why many couples have lived years under this setting.

Why Do Couples Opt For Living Together After Separation?

Every couple has their reasons to be together after legal separation. Here are some of the most common ones.

1. Children

Co-parenting while living in the same house

Image: iStock

Many separated couples continue to live together for the sake of their children. Parent’s divorce can have adverse effects on children as the experience of having a parent leave them can be traumatizing. Therefore, couples prefer co-parenting while living in the same house to protect them.

2. Health insurance

Some spouses could be well placed at work, reaping the benefits of health insurance coverage that extends to their family. It serves the purpose for those who take legal responsibility for the children. Being together allows the parents to gain the benefits of a strong and secure health insurance policy.

3. Expensive divorce

Divorce can be an expensive affair, costs can be as high as several thousand dollars. In cases where finance is an issue, living together after separation seems feasible as it takes off the burden of managing finances on your own. It can also be a temporary arrangement until the couple manages to source the money required for a divorce.

4. Difference in income

Managing kids' expenses, separated but living together

Image: iStock

Some couples’ earnings can vary vastly, with one spouse earning a lot more than the other. Such an income disparity can affect their lifestyle and even that of their children. Living together allows them to continue with the lifestyle while splitting certain expenses and responsibilities of household chores.

Rules For Living Together After Legal Separation

As simple and convenient as it may sound, it is not easy to get along living together with your ex-spouse. Here are some rules to follow to ensure a smooth cohabitation.

1. Make guidelines

Clearly divide household chores

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When you decide to live together, the first thing you should do is chalk out clear guidelines that you and your spouse will have to follow. You will have to compromise to make it work. List the division of responsibilities and chores. Come to an agreement on not only the distribution of chores but also the expectation of completion for each.

2. Date discreetly

You are now eligible to re-enter the dating scene. However, do not forget that you still live with your ex-spouse. Discretion is not only respectful but will help to avoid conflict. Do not hide anything but do not flaunt it either.

3. Create a budget

Pool money for household expenses

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You will have to create a budget under which you and your spouse will pool a certain amount of money for household expenses. If the difference in income is vast, you can negotiate with them. Make sure the arrangement is reasonable for both of you.

4. Prepare a co-parenting schedule

If you have children, you will have to make a co-parenting schedule by allocating responsibilities to take care of your children. As per your work schedule, you can talk to your partner and decide a weekly schedule of who drops and picks up your child. You can also talk about homework assistance and after-school activities.

5. Avoid sleeping together

You once loved your spouse, so it is natural to feel attached to them when living under one roof. However, under the new circumstances, do not sleep with each other. It might cause unnecessary complications that can make eventual separation difficult.

6. Decide upon a ‘no fight’ clause

Avoid arguments and fights

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Certain issues may have led to the separation, and those can still be touchy topics. When you decide to live together, mutually talk about those issues that you will not mention before each other to avoid arguments and fights. It is especially helpful if you have children living with you at home.

Dos And Don’ts To Follow When Living Together After Separation

In addition to the above rules, here are some dos and don’ts to follow while living with your former partner.

  • Make clear decisions and stay firm on them.
  • Have a set date for when the arrangement shall end.
  • Stick to your designated spaces at home. Do not try to clean or manage your spouse’s space.
  • If possible, maintain separate entries to your personal space in the house.
  • Avoid doing extra work that is not designated to you. Do not try to be your old self and help around when it is not your duty.
  • Do not fight or argue in front of children. It defeats the whole purpose of living together after separation.
  • Maintain separate bank accounts except for one where you save money for children and other household expenses.
  • Do not go for outings or vacations together. Stop attending family functions and events together.
  • Do not socialize like a couple in public. Even if you have a child, slowly prepare them for your eventual separation and avoid behaving like a family.
  • Do not celebrate birthdays or anniversaries together. Do not give a gift to each other for any occasion.
  • Inform your respective family and close friends about the separation and that you have decided to live together before divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a marriage survive a separation?

Yes. A marriage can survive separation if both partners take time to reflect on the relationship and identify areas that need repair. Both parties should also take the distance as an opportunity to work on themselves and find positive ways to save the marriage.

2. What should I not do when separating?

Do not make separation nasty by losing temper, arguing, or making violent threats. More importantly, do not go for rebound relationships and hurt your feelings further. Also, keep your children away from conflict and ensure the parent-child relationship is not disrupted.

3. Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?

It can be better to divorce rather than stay unhappily married. A miserable marriage can affect your mental and physical health, impact your children, and make your life miserable. However, if you are in an abusive marriage, there is no option other than divorce.

If you and your partner are separated but living together, creating certain boundaries and guidelines can make it a pleasant experience. Avoid sleeping together, make clear decisions, and, if you have children together, avoid fighting and arguing in front of them. Create a co-parenting schedule by assigning responsibilities. If you ever feel like you can no longer compromise, remember that you are already separated. It’s only a temporary arrangement; you will eventually move out once your circumstances improve.

Infographic: Living Together After Separation For Your Children

If you are separated but living together with children, things may get complicated if not handled well. Your situation should not impact their childhood. Hence you must keep your differences aside for them and come up with specific rules to take care of them. Use this infographic as your checklist for co-parenting under the same roof while remaining separated.

living together after separation for your children [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

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Ratika Pai

Ratika has experience writing in various fields including finance, education, lifestyle, and entertainment. After her masters degree in Commerce, she acquired a PG Diploma in Communication and Journalism from Mumbai University. She is inquisitive about human relationships and likes to study people and how they manage their relationships, during her freetime. At MomJunction, Ratika writes insightful and informative articles on...
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Nancy Fagan

(Marriage Mediator, LMFT)
Nancy Fagan specializes in relationship problems, couples counseling, and divorce, having done her Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. She is the founder of the Relationship Resolution Center in Plano, Texas, and is a published author with three books in her name "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Romance" (Macmillan Publishing), "Desirable Men: How to Find Them" (Prima Publishing), and "Fables of...
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