Going through a separation can be a very emotionally taxing time, particularly when you have shared children or property. Living together during separation, where that is reasonable, can be one way to minimise the immediate disruption of your lives.
Often where there are children, it is agreed for the children’s main carer to remain in the home until the children reach the age of majority to ensure the children remain settled and have security during their minor years. Living together during separation can further support their continued security.
Can You Separate But Live Together?
If the separation is mutual and agreed upon, you can separate but live together in the same house until it is sold, transferred or until one party can obtain alternative accommodation, whether it be rented or purchased.
When considering separation as an option, consider which type of separation is best suited to your situation. For example, most separations benefit from having an agreement, either legal or between the couple, to balance expectations and make boundaries clear. This is all the more important when you remain living together, to avoid crossing any lines.
Types of Separation
- Trial period
A trial separation period is something that many couples try when they are going through seemingly irreconcilable marital difficulties. This is not a legal move but a personal one – you and your spouse agree to separate without looking to end the relationship.
You should make boundaries very clear, especially when you remain living together during a trial separation. This could include rules about seeing other people, inviting friends to the home and any childcare arrangements.
Separation refers to a couple who wish to separate but not yet divorce or a cohabiting couple whose relationship is no longer working. You can file for legal separation if you are married, which requires less evidence than filing for divorce. You can separate but live together and, if the separation is amicable, remaining in the same home can help lines of communication stay open and keep costs down. It is recommended to work with your partner on dividing any shared assets. If you cannot reach agreements, you might consider mediation to ensure a fair split.
- Separation with a view to divorce
The law plays a much more significant role in this type of separation. If you are looking to divorce your spouse, you should consult a lawyer even if the split has been amicable. There are certain criteria you must meet to qualify for a divorce – while it can be more difficult to meet these criteria while still living with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, it is feasible for many couples.
The new “No Fault Divorce” which comes into effect on 6th April 2022 where both parties can consent that the marriage has irretrievably broken down will provide for a smoother and less acrimonious divorce process, particularly where the parties are forced to temporarily live together.
But how do you prove that you have separated? When you are living together during separation, the most important thing is that you and your ex-partner go about your lives separately, including sleeping in separate rooms, eating at different times and carrying out household chores separately.
Living together during separation can save money and hassle, so long as both parties can be respectful of each other and give each other the necessary space.
What is an Occupation Order?
In other cases, a couple will struggle to continue living together, but neither is willing to move out. In these situations, it is possible to involve the Court and apply for an Occupation Order. This type of application can be made in respect of rented and owned properties alike.
An Occupation Order sets out who has the right to stay, return or be excluded from a family home. It will not change the financial entitlement to a home if it is owned and is usually a short-term measure depending on circumstances. However, if a Court is to exclude one person from the home, the Judge will need to be satisfied that the excluded party has alternative accommodation available or the ability to secure alternative accommodation.
If you think you need an occupation order, you should get legal advice first. A solicitor can explain what type of order you can get depending on your circumstances and help you through the process.
Who Can Apply for an Occupation Order?
You may be eligible to apply for an Occupation Order even if you do not own (or are not on the deed to) the property. For example, you can apply for an Occupation Order if you:
- Are married or in a civil partnership with the owner of the home and are currently residing in it
- Your former spouse or civil partner is the owner or tenant, and the house is, was or was intended to be a shared home
- The person you live with is the owner or tenant, and the house is, was or was intended to be your shared home
Occupation Orders can do different things depending on your circumstances, and the application can be made on an urgent basis.
If an Occupation Order is not enough to keep your family safe, you can apply for a Non-Molestation Order. You can apply for these if you are a victim of domestic abuse, whether that is from your spouse, partner, a family member or someone you are living with.
Non-Molestation Orders are used to prevent a dangerous individual from harming you or your children. They are powerful orders and breaching them is an arrestable offence that could result in imprisonment for up to five years. A domestic abuse solicitor can talk you through your case and help ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to ensure your safety.
Divorce and separation can be very difficult to go through, but Newtons Solicitors is here to help. If you wish to discuss the impact of living arrangements during separation, or any other family law issues, please contact our friendly family team. We offer a first-class approach to make the process of separating as smooth and stress-free as possible.