If you live together during or after a breakup, you can save money and make it easier for both of you to see your kids.
But what other factors should you consider when it comes to cohabitation and divorce? What if one of you wants to bring home a date? How do you plan to handle expenses? What if your kids think sharing a place means you're going to get back together?
"The question of 'the house' is often central since for most families in the United States, the home is the most valuable financial asset," says child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character. "The home is also the center of the children's physical and psychological life and has great intangible meaning as well."
Maintaining two households is expensive. "Most families will experience more financial hardship during and after divorce than before the divorce," says Berger.
So do you decide the financial savings and the ease of seeing your kids all the time makes it worthwhile to share a home? Or do you worry about recreating the scenes in the 1989 film "War of the Roses"?
Consider the legal and emotional issues:
Of course, legally, if you reside in a state that requires you to live apart from your spouse for a defined period of time before a divorce, you may be unable to pursue the same-house option. In North Carolina, for example, the rule is 12 months in different residences (not just different beds.)
Sometimes a spouse doesn't want to be the one to move out because of worries about being at a legal disadvantage in the divorce, says Nashua, N.H., psychologist Carl Hindy, co-author of If This Is Love, Why Do I Feel So Insecure?. "They don't want to appear that they're somehow abandoning the family or accepting some lesser parenting role."
"There is no hard-and-fast rule determining whether or not the parents should stay living in the home," says Berger. "In situations where there is a great deal of animosity, living under the same roof can be tough going. But each family must weight what is best, and particularly what is in the children's best interest. Undoubtedly, for divorced parents to still live under the same roof with their children can be a constructive arrangement for some families."
Think about whether you would feel comfortable bringing a date back to a house you share with your old partner. "On a practical level, it may make it harder for parents to pursue their 'post-divorce' lives if they are still maintaining a home with their ex," says Berger.
Your kids may get the wrong idea. "Often children hope that parents will reconcile, and maintaining a household together can encourage this fantasy - or perhaps encourage it actually taking place," says Berger.
Living together after a breakup may also cause you and your kids to feel more ongoing stress, says Hindy. "More stressed parents are going to be snapping at the kids more." If you and your spouse have truly decided that divorce is the only answer, you may not want to stay in the same house during the divorce. "I'd rather see couples more quickly get to the point of dealing with two households, helping the children deal with the fact," says Hindy.
Yet some couples who break up but live together manage to think of themselves "more like roommates," says psychotherapist Daniela Roher. "If somebody is doing something that's irritating, they can shrug it off." To make it work, you need to set a time frame for the arrangement. Is it forever - or temporary? "Sit down and say, 'we need to do it until the kids go back to school in the fall,'" says Roher. "Set a goal and revisit that goal from time to time. Has something happened that we need to change how we're going to proceed?"
Whatever you decide to do about cohabitation and divorce, speak with a trained professional. A therapist can also help you figure out whether it's truly best for you to split up permanently. After all, studies show that married people are mentally and physically healthier and even have more sex than single people. And as University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite wrote in The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially, unhappy couples who divorce are no happier than those who stick it out.
In the end, who knows? You may decide to stay together, in the same house.
For more stories about divorce, read: