Living Together During Divorce

7 May 2020


It may, or may not, come as a surprise but in the eyes of the law, it is indeed legal to live with a divorcing spouse. However, there are specific rules you must adhere to if you find yourself in this situation to ensure the divorce process can continue to proceed. Put simply, you must maintain separate households throughout, leading individual lives, despite the fact you are living under the same roof.

With the current COVID-19 lockdown upon us – and more and more individuals finding themselves subject to this sort of circumstance – this latest blog post offers a follow up guide to our previous, Separated but Living Together article, ensuring you feel knowledgeable in what is required of you to ensure a smooth and efficient divorce process.

Does living together impact filing for divorce?

There are 5 grounds for asking the Court to grant a divorce in the UK. If you live together during the divorce process, 3 of these reasons are impacted:

  • If you are divorcing based on the grounds of adultery, you will be unable to use this ground if you have continued to live in the same house for 6 months or more after the date adultery was admitted to you.
  • If you want to use the grounds of unreasonable behaviour for your divorce, you will be unable to use this ground if you have continued cohabiting for 6 months or more.
  • It is advised that if you are wanting to use the 2 years separation rule, to do so when one party moves out.

What does living separate lives mean?

To comply with the legal definition, you must no longer share the day to day activities of the household. These include:

  • Sharing a bank account
  • Sharing a bedroom
  • Cooking and eating meals together, including with your children (you can eat separately with your children)
  • Sharing children’s activities
  • Socialising together, including sitting down for a coffee together
  • Going shopping together, including food shopping
  • Sharing laundry and domestic chores
  • Watching TV together

Maintaining separate lives means you have to live completely different lives. Just like you would if you did not live together.  The same is true if you are living together and you planto get a divorce. In these cases, the Court will want to see that you are maintaining separate households before granting a Decree Nisi.

Separation agreements

 When married couples separate, the presumption is that the parties will proceed with a Divorce. However, there are many reasons why you might not want to start divorce proceedings straight away, including being unable to afford separate households, wanting to rely on the two years separation rule or maintaining a structure for the children. Not to mention living in such uncertain times right now.

If you choose to do this, you’ll need to come to a number of agreements such as who is going to pay the bills, who will stay in the family home when the divorce does go through and even which rooms each person is allowed to use while you live together in the same house.

When you reach an understanding, you can formally record your arrangement in writing with a Separation Agreement. It’s helpful to think of it as an interim agreement, so that when you do get a divorce it will be mirrored in the Divorce Financial Settlement.

If you’re unsure of which activities you can and can’t do whilst living with an ex-spouse, or are interested in creating a separation agreement, get in touch with the Hepburn Delaney team for advice and support.