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Advantages & Pitfalls of Co-Existing in The Same House After Divorce


A woman looks out of the window.

When a marriage ends, decisions must be made with respect to living arrangements for the

former spouses and their children. Some separating spouses decide to remain living together

after divorce.


If you are going through a separation, you may be considering the option of continuing to cohabit with your ex-spouse. If you know some of the pros and cons of living together post- separation, it may make it easier to decide the right choice for you and your family. Let’s have a look at the law on living together after separation and discuss the potential advantages and

pitfalls.


BC law allows spouses to be separated but still live together


A marriage often ends when one spouse moves out of the home. However, that is not a legal requirement under BC family law. In BC, spouses are separated from each other once they

begin living “separate and apart” and at least one of the spouses wants to end the relationship.


The decision to end the marriage must be communicated to the other spouse. In other words, you can live separate and apart from your spouse while still living under the same roof.


What are the advantages of living together after separation?


It can be advantageous to continue living together under the same roof despite being

separated for several reasons, including:


  • Financial considerations. You may be able to reduce your monthly living expenses by sharing your monthly living expenses. It may also be an arrangement made necessary by the housing market, lack of availability of rental properties or your inability to qualify for a mortgage to purchase another property.

  • Benefits your children. It can be an easier transition for children—especially young children—if their parents continue to live together and it can in some situations make co-parenting easier.

  • Cultural or religious reasons. Some ex-spouses keep living in the same house for cultural, societal or religious reasons.

  • Comfort/convenience. It may be easier or more convenient, particularly if spouses are amicable, to continue to cohabit under the same roof.

  • Emotional reasons. Spouses may not feel ready to fully separate all aspects of their lives even though their time as married spouses is over.


What are the pitfalls of living under the same roof after separation?


  • Living together post-separation is not for everyone. Consider the following potential concerns:

  • Will you and your ex-spouse be able to set up and respect each other’s privacy and personal space?

  • Are you comfortable with your former spouse having guests over while you still live together?

  • What happens if one or both of you starts a new romantic relationship?

  • Could living together post-separation be confusing for your children or lead to disputes about co-parenting responsibilities?

  • Was there any emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse during the relationship that makes continued cohabitation unhealthy or unsafe?

  • Will you and your former partner be able to agree on how to share household expenses and responsibilities in a way that is fair?

  • Could one spouse fabricate allegations about your conduct and involve the police or the Ministry of Child and Family Development in order to gain exclusive occupancy of the home and the primary parenting role for the children?


Legal implications of co-existing in the same house after divorce


If post-separation cohabitation is workable in your situation, there are several legal implications

to consider. First, it is important to understand the significance of the “date of separation”

when it comes to certain family law matters. The date of separation is critical to issues such as:

  • Debt and property division. Both asset division and debt division depend on the date of separation. Family property is everything owned on the date of separation and family debt is everything owed on the date of separation;

  • When the spouses can apply for a divorce to legally end the marriage; and

  • Whether there is a claim for retroactive child and/or spousal support if no maintenance was paid during the period of separation when the spouses continued to live together.


As noted above, in many cases the date of separation is clear because it is the date one or both

spouses physically move out of the house. The issue can be much less clear when spouses

continue to live together post-separation but do not disentangle certain aspects of their lives

and do not paper them with an interim agreement regarding the new rules of cohabitation,

including any financial sharing of expenses.


The date of separation might be disputed by one or both spouses. When the date of separation

is disputed, evidence of intention to separate must be examined. The court will look at several

critical factors to determine the date of separation, including whether the spouses continued to

sleep in the same bed, have sex, share a bank account, hold themselves out to others as a

couple, file their taxes together, attend social events/family functions together and eat meals

together.


It is highly recommended that separating spouses who wish to continue living together get legal

advice. Both parties need to know their legal rights and responsibilities. Ideally, the spouses will

consult with a divorce lawyer and get a written separation agreement in place that outlines the

terms of their living arrangements, parenting arrangements and respective financial

responsibilities.


Reach out to an experienced family law attorney


If you are considering cohabiting with your ex after separation, you need to know your legal rights and understand the consequences of your decision. There can be extremely important personal, legal and financial implications of the decision you make with respect to post-separation living arrangements.


Valerie M. Little Law Corporation is a family law firm that is centrally located in New

Westminster and serves the surrounding areas of Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, Port

Coquitlam, Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Surrey,

Cloverdale, Delta, Langley, the Lower Mainland, Squamish and Whistler.


Contact our family law firm today to schedule your case strategy session. We have the

experience, knowledge and resources to help you navigate through this chapter in your life.

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