Mike and Mary separated after a relationship of 15 years. They had two children aged 9 and 6. The family was not in a financial position to afford living in separate homes. Mike, being the primary income earner, has realised that working long hours has impacted his relationship with his children. Mary, being the primary caregiver to the children, has missed the mental stimulation that her career used to provide. The separation has been a difficult and emotional time for the family. Mike and Mary understand they will need to sort out their lives independently, but it’s too soon right now – how can they manage this “in-between” time, when they are separated but not yet ready to sell the house?
One option for Mike and Mary is to stay living under the one roof. Admittedly, this isn’t going to work for everyone – but it can work if Mike and Mary are committed to achieving the best outcome for their family long-term as they transition to living independently.
Here are 6 suggestion for on how to thrive under the same roof.
- Plan, plan plan!
Like with all things, if you prepare well you’re more likely to be successful. Start with what are the “musts” – Mary might write up a schedule of the children’s school commitments, activities and weekend sports. Mike might write up the times he must be present at work to keep his employment security. They could both write up their “wishes” – Mike wants some one-on-one time with each of the children; Mary wants some time to return to part-time study.
- Schedule Together
Mike and Mary then bring their plans together, and create a schedule of how they will start living independently under one roof. This will mean organising the “musts” and “wishes” in a way that is respectful to the needs of the family – it requires both Mike and Mary to be a little selfless. The schedule should include weekly review times, to bring Mike and Mary back to the table to talk about what’s working well, what’s not working so well, and how to adjust the schedule for the following week. This is a period of trial and error, so be flexible.
- Reach for help
Running a household during a separation can be challenging. Mike and Mary find it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. When things don’t work to plan, it’s time to reach out for help. There are services to help you resolve differences and get you back on track – a Mediator or a divorce Coach can meet with Mike and Mary to help iron out the problems in a constructive and positive way. This also gives Mike and Mary somewhere else to go to talk about problems, away from the children.
- Learn some new skills
This is a time both Mike and Mary will discover they need to skill up before they move out independently. For Mike it could be learning how to navigate the kitchen to prepare dinner and school lunches. For Mary it’s the financial management of the family and budgeting for the future. It’s a safe time to build those skills, especially if you both commit to helping one another – this approach will make sure you’re both “ready” when it comes time to move out. Constructive criticism is the key here – and be prepared not to take it too personally.
- Understand the grief cycle
Through the course of their separation, Mike and Mary will have a multitude of emotions – anger, sadness, relief are just a few. They will go through a range of feelings and will probably go through them at different times. It’s perfectly normal. By being brave enough to seek counselling, Mike learned how to recognise where he is on the grief cycle, and how to manage his emotions. Mary has her own counsellor too, who helps her build skills on supporting the children through this time. There is no disadvantage on reaching out for help – it actually demonstrates you have insight into how you’re feeling and are prepared to learn how to do things better.
If you think counselling would be helpful for you but don’t know where to start, call our office and ask for a referral.
- Your kids are watching & learning
Mike and Mary are setting an example for their kids and showing them the values of respect and amicability. Their children feel so much better being able to see their mum and dad speaking in a friendly way to each other, even after separation. They feel they can still rely on both their parents – and remember, the children still love both their mother and their father. It can also create a strong foundation for a healthy co-parenting relationship moving forward.
There are a multitude of services and programs available for parents who are seeking to build their parenting skills after separation. These services can help you understand your children’s emotions at separation and to build on your awareness of the impact of parental conflict on children. If you’re looking for relevant services, call our office for suggestions.
Now, please bear in mind that living under the one roof whilst you are going through a separation is a challenge – and it’s not right for everyone. It is important to check in and realistically assess whether you and your partner can do this – it will need both of you to put the children’s needs first. Sometimes this is hard, especially when emotions are high and the logical part of your brain feels like it’s checked out for a while. That’s why it is important to surround yourself with support and advice at this time.
In our role as solicitors advising our clients, we have seen the benefits of a Collaborative Practice Team when couples are considering separating under one roof. A Collaborative Practice approach gives everyone the space and safety to address these six important considerations we have outlined here. The best part is that the Collaborative approach makes sure that everyone is focused on keeping your family out of court, and resolving the separation in a sensible and practical way.
If you would like some more information about how separation under one roof can work for you and your family, while at the same time benefiting from a Collaborative approach to resolving your matter, then feel free to give us a call for a complimentary confidential discussion with one of our dedicated Family Law experts.