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.

In This Article

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.

Separation vs Divorce

The primary distinctions between legal separation and divorce encompass crucial aspects of the marital relationship:

1. Legal status

  • Legal separation: Couples remain legally married.
  • Divorce: The marriage is entirely dissolved, and spouses are no longer legally married.

2. Marital status

  • Legal separation: Spouses maintain their marital status, preventing them from marrying someone else.
  • Divorce: Individuals are free to remarry after the marriage is officially terminated.

3. Next of kin status

  • Legal separation: Recognized as next of kin, allowing separated spouses to make medical or financial decisions for each other.
  • Divorce: Former spouses are no longer considered next of kin after the marriage is dissolved.

4. Reconciliation

  • Legal separation: Provides a more flexible approach, making reconciliation easier since the marriage is not conclusively terminated.
  • Divorce: Once finalized, the marriage is permanently ended, and remarriage is the only path to legal reunification.

5. Court order

  • Legal separation: Involves obtaining a court order allowing couples to live apart and addressing key issues like child custody and property division.
  • Divorce: Represents the legal termination of the marriage, with a court order outlining the final terms and conditions.

Why Do Couples Opt For Living Together After Separation?

Every couple has their reasons to continue having a shared space after legal separation. Here are some of the most common ones.

1. Children

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.

Jenn M. Wilson, a mother of two and writer, decided she no longer wanted to be in a relationship with her husband. She talks about opting for a Parenting Marriage or staying under one roof for the children. In her blog Separated But Living Together, she says, “We have two small children and I’m not giving up their shot at being under one roof with both parents without a fight (i).”

2. Health insurance

Some spouses could be well placed at work, reaping the benefits of health insurance coverage that extends to their family. In corroborative terms, 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, couples may be bound to live together after separation as it seems feasible and takes off the burden of managing finances on their 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. Cohabitating in such cases 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

Image: Shutterstock

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 so coexisting in the same house can 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. While mingling with prospective dates is okay, it’s best to be open and honest without flaunting new relationships.

3. Create a budget

Pool money for household expenses

Image: Shutterstock

Consider creating a budget by combining a specific amount to manage household expenses. If there is a significant income difference, discussing and agreeing on a finanical arrangement before consolidating the budget is best to avoid conflicts. Also, make sure the plan is fair for both parties involved.

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.

protip_icon Point to consider
If it feels too difficult to confront each other, get a third-party in between. It will help you handle negative emotions and keep them away from your children.

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 inextricable complications that can make eventual separation difficult.

6. Decide upon a ‘no fight’ clause

Avoid arguments and fights

Image: Shutterstock

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. In addition, try presenting a unified front and work as an integrated family unit to provide children with a harmonious and positive home environment until you prepare them for eventual separation.

Heather Dedeaux, the creator of the YouTube channel Heather’s Lifestyle, offers inspiration to those struggling to overcome the worst of circumstances by sharing her past experiences. She emphasizes that when a couple has recently chosen to separate but continues residing in the same household, there are numerous potential sources of conflict. She says, “The goal is to calm the storm and the last thing you want to do is match energy with energy. Do not match fire with fire. I did it, I know from experience. Please don’t get yourself caught up with that (ii).”

protip_icon Quick tip
Make your home environment a ‘no-fight’ zone. Only talk about separation outside your home, such as in the coffee shop or a park.

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 collective 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

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version


Feeling lost and alone after separation from your spouse? Discover some practical strategies on how to survive and thrive in this video!

Key Takeaways

  • Legal separation occurs when a married couple decides to live apart legally.
  • Getting remarried is not possible during a legal separation, and the court decides on property division, child custody, and alimony.
  • Some separated couples choose to cohabit for children or financial benefits like health insurance.
  • To ensure peaceful cohabitation, set boundaries, create clear guidelines, date discreetly, prepare a co-parenting schedule, budget, and share finances.

Personal Experience: Sources

i. Separated But Living Together;
https://medium.com/heart-affairs/separated-but-living-together-479ec23e31d4

ii. Living together while separated. Controlling your emotions;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJs0ia45hok (7.00.00)

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