Spouses from time to time decide to effect marital separation while continuing to reside in the same household. Reasons for such a decision are diverse and include, by way of example, financial considerations, unavailability at the time of a successor residence for one of the spouses and mutual attempts to ease a child or children’s emotional transition to parental separation.
Couples intending to establish a successful separation under the same roof should consider the following guidelines, though some but not all of these factors may be required to establish separation within the same residence:
Both spouses should agree to the establishment and maintenance of the discontinuation of the marital relationship, including the cessation of romantic or sexual intimacy and socializing together. There should be a physical separation with separate bedrooms and if possible separate entrances, and each person should care for their own space. Chores should also be divided between the two, including caring for their own laundry.
While at home, the separated couple should no longer prepare and eat meals together, use the other’s food or supplies purchased with their own money or buy necessities or gifts for the other person. Separate bank accounts should be enacted to avoid financial confusion and establish financial independence. Preparations should also be made to have a third party come to the home occasionally as a witness to the two distinct and separate living quarters. If possible, ask the third party to stay overnight for a stronger defense of the mutual separation.
Outside of the household, separated spouses should cease to hold themselves out as a couple. Each spouse should make it apparent to friends, family and co-workers that they are pursuing legal separation while residing in the same house as their spouse. Wedding bands should be removed and social functions attended separately. Joint memberships in clubs or associations should be separated, which also includes attending classes, events or parties.
An exception to this would be joint involvement in a child’s activities. However, be wary of formal and informal settings for joint participation. For example, it would be acceptable for the parents to go together to a meeting with a school official in relation to problems confronting a particular child, but it is less appropriate for the parents to ride together and sit together at a child’s school play, athletic event or any other social event.
Lastly, each person should be prepared to explain to a judge all reasons for the separation under the same roof. A written agreement signed by both spouses confirming this may offer some corroboration of physical separation and of the intent that the separation will be permanent. Likewise, corroboration may be provided by other surrounding circumstances and need not be provided solely by witness testimony.
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