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Separated under the one roof – why more couples are still living together

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Separated under the one roof – why more couples are still living together

For anyone considering separation, the thought of living with your ex-spouse under the one roof might seem horrifying and ridiculous! Most people would agree that the idea of having to sharing a home with a person who you have either lost all feelings for – or still have intense, raw feelings for – would be very difficult. Amazingly though, the number of Aussies who are separated under the one roof is much higher than what you might think.

As an example of the huge number of couples living together after separation, in 2017, the Department of Human Services reported that 38,692 of their Centrelink recipients were living under these conditions and this figure was expanding from previous years. But it’s not a new phenomenon.

There have even been provisions for it in law since it was legislated as part of the Family Law Act of 1975, and  people were doing it long before then too.

These days, besides doing it for the kids, the primary reason ex-couples choose to stay in the one home is a financial one. It’s just too expensive for separating couples to afford

  • individual homes (especially in the state capitals);
  • the cost of living; and
  • the cost of divorce.

When real estate is involved in the asset pool of a separating couple, you might think you can just go to the Family Court and tell a judge you want to split things 50/50 and that will be it.

Unfortunately though, it can actually be a very long and arduous process to obtain court orders (unless there is family violence involved), as there are thousands of other ex-couples with the same plans who are waiting in line before you. In fact, it can take up to three years in NSW*!

So, unless you arrange to do the division yourself (which you can do using an online kit from RP Emery), you may be in for a very long wait. Because of this, some couples wait it out under the same roof until they have gone through the court process and obtained a fair order.

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A recent example of this is Sarah’s story.

Sarah, 47, is a mum of two teens. She recently split-up with her de facto husband, Tony, 58, whom she had been with for 21 years. They ended their relationship due to realising they had nothing in common after Tony took on semi-retirement.

Unfortunately, Tony and Sarah bought a house together only a year before their split, but this magnified their relationship problems. Because they weren’t in a good position to sell their home immediately after they decided to split, this was one huge factor for their decision to live together.

In the early days after their split, Sarah and Tony tried to live like flatmates. They separated purchases, divided chores and tried to split the weekend time with the children.

It quickly became obvious that their attempts at amicability were in vain. Their emotions were still very raw, which got in the way of cooperation and caused bickering. While they eventually worked through many of their initial house-sharing problems, things were very difficult.

While this was going on, Sarah inquired about a financial split at her local law firm. She was given a quote of just over $8,000, which is a pretty typical amount for these services. Unfortunately, many law firms don’t like to give a specific quote, because they know if they drag the process out as long as possible, they’ll get paid more! You’ve probably seen movies where a person’s lawyer tells them they can ‘go for more’ assets during a divorce, even if they are already happy with their share? Well, unfortunately, there are many lawyers with that attitude and this can hold things up significantly.

Thankfully, Sarah found RP Emery and managed to complete an online agreement with Tony for almost 80% less than the law firm quote!

After already waiting for the traditional court process for six months, the online agreement only took a couple of weeks and they didn’t need to wait for their case to proceed at a painfully slow pace through a busy court system. Shortly after, Tony was able to move out into his own flat and Sarah was able to move on with her life, knowing that she had done the best thing for herself and her family.

This type of financial agreement is ideal for ex-couples who have already decided on who should get what after their relationship ends.

If you’re facing a separation and you can’t handle the thought of living together any longer, an online financial agreement will make the separation process so much cheaper, quicker and easier! If – on the other hand – you do want to attempt cohabitation after separation, well, we think you’re a bit of a superhero and can certainly handle more than most people! Just be aware though that if you’re doing it for the kids, this is often counterproductive. You may think you and your ex are handling things well, but your kids will (and do) notice every quiet argument, every cold shoulder and every line of stress on your face. Regardless, you are in the best place to know what’s best for your family. We are just here to help make the separation process much easier for you with our online financial agreements.


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About the author

Director of RP Emery Legal Kits. As a non-lawyer herself, she understands the confusion and unease that many people experience when confronted with a legal issue. That’s why she works to make legal matters simpler and more easily understood. The bottom line is that there are many common legal transactions that you can handle yourself quite comfortably.