Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law
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Are you considering divorce, but remaining in the family home?

When you planned your wedding, you probably never considered the fact that your marriage could end. You went about your lives, which included purchasing a home in which you thought you would raise your children and grow old together. For whatever reason, your marriage began to deteriorate to the point where you and your spouse are considering divorce.

One of the problems you face is what to do about the marital home. Even though the economy continues to recover from the recession and the housing market crash, you may be one of many California homeowners who can't afford to refinance the home or sell it. If the two of you are considering remaining in the home, but separating and beginning the divorce process, you may need to create a plan to do so.

Set some ground rules

In order to make this sort of arrangement work, you and your soon-to-be former spouse may want to sit down and discuss some ground rules that you can then put into writing that address at least the following issues:

  • If you have children, you will need to figure out how to spend time with them. Will you continue to function as a family unit or spend separate time with the children?
  • Your children may have numerous questions as they notice the changes. You may need to agree on how much information the children receive and whether to deliver it together.
  • Do you have a big enough house for each of you to have your own space? You will at least need to figure out sleeping arrangements in order to consider yourselves separated.
  • Will you divide the household duties and bills? If so, who will be responsible for what?
  • Will you function as roommates who don't see other people until the divorce is final, or will each of you truly have your own lives and just live under the same roof?

In the first couple of weeks, you may notice that some aspects of your agreement are working better than others do. You may need to make adjustments as your plan becomes reality, which means that you need to keep the lines of communication open, especially if you have children. The goal is to reach some sort of equilibrium under these admittedly emotional and stressful conditions.

What next?

You may want to discuss an end date to your arrangement. Doing so may make it easier to deal with the situation. You could also take advantage of this time and arrangement to work on your divorce settlement as well, if that is your ultimate goal. Even though you may want to be accommodating in the interest of "keeping the peace," it's still imperative that you protect your rights and focus on what you will need to start your post-divorce life. 

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