Many couples that separate, while in the process of divorce, do so because living with one another is not in the best interest for each of them and their family.  As the divorce progresses, emotions run high and living in the same household can lead to otherwise avoidable confrontations and stress. 

So, how can you keep your family together when legally ending your marriage?

It can make it difficult to even look at one another during the process, much less consider living together during and/or after the divorce.  However, for some, the idea of instantly dividing their family, maintaining two separate residences and having the kids shuttle from one home to another also seems like a great challenge.  So, we listed a few options to consider, along with pros and cons for each, that may make the transition easier.

Stay close while living separately 

1. You can elect to sell your home and purchase a two-family home.  You could also convert a single family home into a two-family with each parent utilizing two separate areas of the home.   Finally, if your HOA and city have no restrictions otherwise (or you find property that allows for 2 houses on one lot), you can put a second prefabricated cabin or house on the property often ranging between $30,000 and $40,000 (depending on how much finish work you do yourself).

Pros: These options allow the children access to both parents daily and still provide each parent separate living quarters.  It's also more economically feasible.  It provides less driving to and from each other's homes which is time better spent with family.  If one parent decides to move, the other unit or cabin could be used for extra income as an Airbnb® or monthly rental.

Cons: As both parents move on with their life, it can be increasingly difficult for one or both to feel like they have enough privacy and are able to live independent of the dissolution.  It can be difficult for each to continue sharing housing expenses such as mortgage, insurance and utility bills.   Dating will be a serious challenge for many.   The kids may misunderstand their parent's new relationship which may make things more difficult before they get better.   Many may find it best as a transition period of 1-5 years following their divorce rather than a permanent housing solution.   It's not ideal for all couples and absolutely a bad idea for couples who suffered a highly contentious divorce or serious marriage problems (spouses with a history of addiction, abuse, abandonment, etc.) 

Keep the family together for the holidays & special occasions 

2. Based on your relationship with your former spouse, it may be possible to continue to have special occasions such as birthday parties, family night or holidays together.  In the beginning it may be best to keep it to family only, without significant others.  As time passes and the family gets more comfortable with mom and dad dating, then it may be appropriate to include significant others.

Pros: This family transition will allow the children time to adjust to mom and dad not being together.  It may also help each parent find a way to develop the new co-parent relationship in a neutral atmosphere.

Cons: If the relationship is strained, it could be a means to make for a very bad experience or memory for the children if an argument ensues and/or negative vibes are being felt by those attending.  It could damage what little semblance that may have been developed in a co-parenting format as designated by the current divorce decree and/or parenting classes either or both parents have attended.

Keep the kids in their home

3. When separating, you may consider the option to get a small apartment and have each parent take turns staying there instead of having one parent move out of the home right away and sending the kids from home-to-home for visitation.  This co-parenting arrangement is often termed "nesting" or "birdnesting".    Some parents choose this type of arrangement when separating for a better, overall transition for the children and continue it after the divorce is final until such a time, they determine a traditional arrangement would be more beneficial for the entire family.

Pros: It gives the family a chance to either re-build and/or continue with typical household continuity until things are settled.  At which time a decision will have been made that may include one or both of the aforementioned options.  Otherwise, you can opt for standard visitation and holiday/birthday custody arrangements.  It puts the burden on the parents instead of the children who are the ones that usually take on the burden of two separate homes.

Cons:  Life is hard enough during a separation.  This could make the whole process very difficult for each parent to live in two separate locations and still juggle their typical duties associated with kids, work and household obligations.  These obligations include house cleaning, mowing and household management.  It can also add a new strain on the relationship amidst a divorce if these obligations are neglected from either spouse while in the primary home.  Clear written expectations would help deter this from happening.

While keeping the family together is always a goal, the overall happiness of each member of the family should be the primary focus.  If mom and dad just do not get along, it serves no one to continue to foster an environment where the family stays together but suffers.  So, consider all possibilities before making a decision and always remember to agree that either parent can discontinue the arrangement after a set amount of time to ensure that each can be prepared if the arrangement fails to work for either person.


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