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Can We Get a Divorce if We Still Live Together?

Couple arguing

One question our Freehold, NJ divorce lawyers are sometimes asked is whether it’s possible to get divorced while living together. It’s not necessarily the norm, but there are some practical reasons a couple might choose to cohabitate both during and after a divorce. So yes, it’s possible. That said, there can be numerous legal implications for this type of arrangement, so it’s imperative you have a thorough discussion with your divorce attorney before agreeing to it.

Why Would Anyone Choose Cohabitation After a Split?

The end of a marriage is the end of the romantic relationship (among other things). But many former couples continue to partner in certain respects, whether it’s maintaining a business, co-parenting their children or socializing in the same circles. For some, it can make sense to do so from the same primary residence.

The two most commonly-cited reasons are:

  • Financial stability. There is no question divorce is expensive. Establishing two separate residences is going to increase your monthly costs. For some, living together - at least temporarily during the transition - can be financially smart until they can each pull together enough resources to live on their own. (Interestingly, many discover their former spouses are “much better roommates than they were a husband/wife.”) There is something about having all those lingering relationship issues resolved that can help evaporate the tension.
  • For the benefit of the kids. The thought of having to constantly shuttle kids back-and-forth, split up holidays and not be there to tuck them in each night can weigh heavily on parents. Cohabiting for the kids (sometimes called “nesting”) is seen as the solution. Whether it works long-term will be up to the individuals involved.

What Could Go Wrong?

Although residing together pending the divorce finalization is common, there are many potential pitfalls that can arise in a cohabitation after divorce. Let’s start with the emotional entanglements. Firstly, the whole thing may be very confusing for your kids. You tell them divorced, but you’re still living together and generally behaving as if married. They may not really accept it, which could delay their denial and grieving over the situation. The same may be true for the two of you, especially if one of you didn’t really want the marriage to end. There could be ulterior motives for pushing such an arrangement (hoping to persuade the other to stay). Alternatively, one may be looking to have many of the same benefits of marriage without all the formal labels/responsibilities.

If such a situation were to work, there would need to be many contingencies clearly ironed out, from who’ll be responsible to pay what bills, how you’ll present the situation to friends and family to how to handle each other dating again. And will there be an end date? What if one of you decides they need to make an exit sooner?

From a legal standpoint, cohabitation after divorce can really complicate things because without a clean break, it’s tough to work out things like:

  • Will one spouse pay the other child support and/or alimony?
  • If they share responsibility for paying the mortgage, who receives the tax deduction?
  • How will they divvy up any increase/decrease in home value if/when they decide to sell it?
  • Who is going to pay for any debts you rack up covering household incidentals or damages?

There are no simple answers to many of these questions even under typical circumstances. Cohabitation can make them even trickier.

It should be noted that if you aren’t ready to fully split but need some boundaries in place to continue living together for now, you might consider a separation agreement. New Jersey is one of a handful of states that doesn’t have a formal legal separation process/status. Couples are either married or divorced. Some are frustrated that there is no status of legal separation to serve as an alternative to total divorce, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contract a written separation agreement. The nice thing about the fact that there’s no formal legal separation process is that contracting a written separation agreement is often easier and less expensive than divorce - so long as those involved can cooperate. If you ultimately decide to press forward with divorce, the separation agreement can help reduce the uncertainty involved in so many cases.

If you’re considering a separation agreement or cohabitation after divorce, it’s very important to review the potential benefits and risks carefully with a Freehold, NJ divorce attorney who knows the specific facts of your case and can advise you as to the smartest course forward.

Contact our Freehold, NJ divorce attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.

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