'I still live with my ex-husband 8 months post-split. These are the 8 rules we follow to make it work.'

After a decade of marriage, Carrie* and her husband decided it was time to split, but not physically right away. 

"He was just getting more and more unhappy, and then I became unhappy too. We were becoming different people. I'm turning 40 and I knew it would be better to make a hard decision rather than drag something on that really wasn't serving us," Carrie told Mamamia.

After some couples counselling and open discussions, Carrie was the one to call time on the marriage. And in July 2022, they officially decided to separate. 

It was a hard time for the couple. Divorce was completely foreign to Carrie, as no one in her family had gone through it before.

"We talked about the practicalities of separating. And that's when we decided we'd continue living together for a period of time and 'consciously uncouple' as Gwenyth Paltrow says! And for our two boys, aged four and seven, we wanted the separation to be a gentle transition for them."

Now, after eight months of continuing to live together while officially separated, the family has learned a lot of lessons along the way. They've created their own set of 'rules' if you will - a personal guide on how they live under the same roof.

1. No family dinners – only on special occasions. 

"Yes, we live under the same roof but that doesn't mean we're always on top of one another. We don't have dinners together anymore. Fortunately, we live in a pretty big house so we make it work - we have separate beds, separate office spaces and just make sure we're not in one another's spaces," Carrie said.


Watch: 3 dating mistakes women make after divorce. Post continues below.

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"With this in mind, we don't do family dinners, as we won't be doing that when we no longer live together – better for the boys to get used to it now. We'll celebrate Father's Day or birthdays together with a dinner, but that's about it."

2. Set strict boundaries, especially when it comes to dating.

"We definitely have the rule of no sex between the two of us. As for dating, we dealt with that early on. He started dating straightaway and we made the call not to bring other people to this home," Carrie said.

3. Trial preferred custody arrangements while still at home. 

"We knew it was going to take time to figure out how to make it work best for us. And that was part of the reason to keep living together because we both needed time to process and learn how to co-parent without throwing ourselves into the deep end," Carrie said. 

"We already know what we want our custody agreement to look like - so with that as the framework, we've been doing it at home. I'll be the main caretaker on my days (mummy days), and he will be the same on his days (daddy days).


"It does take practise getting used to! I remember the first few Wednesdays when it was his 'daddy day', I felt lost. But now I've come to look forward to those days and find out who I am when I'm not with my kids."

4. Open, civil communication is key. 

"It's been crucial to have those open lines of communication and honesty. It's from that rule that we spoke to one another and realised how uncomfortable family dinners were post-separation and decided to stop doing them," Carrie said.

"We've also taught one another new things. In our relationship, I was the one who brought in the money and he managed it, as it's not my forte. Now he's teaching me how to use spreadsheets and pay bills."

Carrie knows this system wouldn't work for every former couple. Although their split was messy like most divorcees, there was no abuse in the relationship.

"If there was abuse or something particularly acrimonious, cohabitation wouldn't work, and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. I just know that for my family, it's been the best call."

5. Be honest with the kids.

Carrie said that often it's kids that ask the tough questions – including her own kids' friends.

"You learn a quick script very easily. And kids love to ask follow-up questions. We just try to be as honest as possible and not make things too complicated.

"Of course, it varies greatly for different circumstances. Our kids are so young that we had the chance to take our time with it, figure out a routine and then tell them. Living all together, I feel like it did give the boys a smoother transition. We only recently told them that we won't be living under the same roof soon, and that was difficult."


6. Living together isn't permanent – ideally six months max.

"My ex will be moving out of our house this week, and I cannot tell you how happy I'm going to be. We've been living together while separated for eight months now. And although we've been civil and managed it well, I don't think anyone should do it for more than six months. Eight is too long," Carrie said.

"But with the rising cost of living, it's gonna be much more of a common reality."

7. Weigh up the financial pros and cons.

For Carrie and her ex-husband, their initial reason for cohabitating was to enable a gentler transition for their kids. But they quickly realised the financial benefit too. 

"Living together for these past eight months has avoided the added cost of rent on top of our mortgage repayments. We're still unsure what we want to do with our current property, so having the time to figure that out and not having to pay for respective rents on top of that has been great."

"We've only recently made the call that he is going to move out into a small rental. And then eventually we will probably sell our house."

8. Consult with a lawyer or expert. It helps big time.

"I've seen a lawyer and have started the documents that need to be prepared in terms of divorce proceedings. I would also say that therapy is critical - both with your ex-partner and by yourself," Carrie said.


Gillian Coote is the Founder and Managing Partner of Coote Family Lawyers. 

In recent years, she said it's become increasingly common for some couples who separate to remain living under the same roof for a period of time. 

"Generally, it is because they either feel it is better for the children, or for financial necessity," she told Mamamia.

But there are definitely 'rules' that couples who are legally separating should follow.

"If a separated couple has lived in the same home during some (or all) of the required 12 months' separation period, they'll need to provide extra information to the court if filing for divorce.

"The most important thing is that they are able to prove they were separated and did not act as a couple while living together. Evidence of being separated may include sleeping in separate bedrooms, a decline in performing household duties for each other, a division of finances, no longer socialising together, and any other matters that show the marriage has broken down - for example notifying family and friends of their separation."

Gillian said separated couples also need to provide an explanation as to why they remained living under the one roof. And if there are children of the relationship under the age of 18, the former couple will also be required to satisfy the court that adequate provisions have been made for them.


For Carrie and her ex-husband, they are reflecting on the cohabitation experience positively.

"Of course if we were millionaires, or if I won the lottery, we would have just bought two townhouses near one another or something like that. But you hear stories of people whose parents divorced generations ago saying 'they told me they had split and then dad walked out the door'. We didn't want that for our kids. We wanted to prove to them we could still be a family, just in a different setup," she told Mamamia

And in the end, she hopes this temporary living arrangement sets them up for a better divorce. 

"I feel like my kids' lives will improve greatly now that their father and I are separated - the kids will now get more quality time with us one on one. I think it's really important that they don't see their mother accepting something that is less than healthy and happy. I want them to see adults choosing happiness instead of staying together even when it's not working."

*Carrie is known to Mamamia but has decided to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The image used is a stock image.

Feature Image: Getty.

This article was originally published in March 2023 and has since been updated.