If you’re living together during divorce — due to financial constraints, your desire to stake a stronger claim to the family home, or to maintain daily contact with the kids – you need a survival plan. In order to keep from going nuts, it’s important to establish boundaries, minimize conflict, and focus on putting your children first. Here are 10 tips to help you survive living together while you’re figuring out how to live apart.Explain the situation to your children. Unless your child is an infant, you need to give him an age-appropriate explanation about the changes going on in the house. No matter how civil you think you’re being, little ears and eyes are bound to pick up conversations, shifts in behavior, and different sleeping locations. Tell your kids what you know: that Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce, approximately how long you both will be in the house, where you’re sleeping, and how you’re splitting parenting time (more on this below).
Sleep in different rooms. Sleeping in the same bed when you’ve decided to divorce will confuse your children. If there’s a lot of animosity between you and your spouse, it will make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. If your home affords you a spare bedroom, consider making it a clean break by keeping all your clothes and other personal belongings in one room, and your spouse’s in another. Your rooms can then become your individual “home base” and place of refuge in the house. Some spouses even install key locks on their bedrooms as a way to ensure privacy.
Focus on strategic communication. Diffuse conflict by implementing Bill Eddy’s “BIFF” communication protocol. When emailing or texting your spouse, be Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. Leave your opinions, emotions, parenting advice, and tips for a personality overhaul out of it.
Manage your emotional reactivity. Living with someone you don’t like (and perhaps loathe) for an extended period of time is bound to create emotional turmoil. You need to keep a clear head and behave in a calm manner to navigate the logistics of divorce and provide a safe living environment for your kids. Practice self-care, get enough sleep, eat properly, exercise, and consider seeing a divorce therapist to help you cope.
Coordinate parenting time. Set a parenting time schedule that allows you and your spouse to spend alone time with children. This will help all of you adjust to your future visitation schedule and the experience of solo parenting. If it’s your spouse’s time for parenting time on Saturday, and your day for private time is on Sunday, one way to keep these truly separate is for the other spouse to vacate the home for the day. This makes it less confusing for kids to know which parent is in charge.
Figure out finances. If your spouse has handled finances during the marriage, you need to learn to manage your own money and pay for your own expenses. If you’ve been the primary caregiver and don’t earn a living, file for a temporary support order. You can also get a court order to designate the allocation of household expenses.
Divide household tasks. If your spouse has wrangled duties on the home front, it’s time to up your game. You’ll be running a household when you’re actually divorced, so get used to it now.
Keep your romantic life out of the house. Never bring a romantic partner into the house. Avoid emailing or texting this person from home where your children or spouse may read a message. The discovery of a pre-divorce paramour can turn an amicable divorce into a hostile one.
Focus on establishing a good co-parenting relationship. Start being a good co-parent now. Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your kids, respect your spouse’s parenting time, and model conflict resolution to your children.
If you can shift your focus from all the things your spouse does wrong to making your children feel loved and secure, you will have an easier time living together during the divorce process.
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