This document has been created as a guide for couples who are recently separated. It is intended to help individuals make an easy transition from living together to living apart by acknowledging that boundaries need to change as relationships change. It is also meant to be the basis for an ongoing dialogue between separated or divorcing couples as they define and adjust to their reconfigured relationship.
People who have been sharing a household for some time develop habits and patterns based on that arrangement. When only one person is in the home formerly occupied by both, issues of privacy for the person who remains in the residence arise, while the person who moved out may feel displaced and separated from familiar surroundings and creature comforts. A period of adjustment is to be expected, during which time clear communication is critical. As difficult as these conversations may be, they are less difficult than the kinds of hurt feelings and unintended consequences that will likely be the result if they don’t occur.
Discuss and agree on the following issues regarding access to the property:
Most people find that the following rules help them make the transition easier for all concerned:
Divorcing spouses who have clear boundaries about what is and is not expected and acceptable can make the transition from living together to living separately more smoothly. Mixed messages are often the source of hurt feelings and anger. Acts of kindness can be misinterpreted as invitations to rekindle a relationship. Often, it is helpful to put into words sentiments like, “I want to be able to be nice to you without your thinking that we will be getting back together,” or, “It’s too painful for me to have your furniture in the house, so we need to find a time for you to move it out.” These feelings, if left unexpressed, can get in the way of making progress in the divorce process. So, as uncomfortable as it is to say these things to someone with whom you have shared a life, the short-term discomfort may pave the way for long-term healthy restructured relationships.
New relationships pose challenges for separated and divorcing couples in a variety of areas. In most situations, one person has mentally and emotionally “moved on” more than the other. Although there are certainly exceptions to this rule, it should never be assumed that a person will not be hurt, embarrassed, or otherwise affected by the fact that his or her spouse is involved in a relationship before the marriage is terminated. This delicate subject should be addressed directly, and with a high degree of respect for the feelings of both spouses.
Generally, divorce attorneys will recommend that clients not enter into new relationships, or put new relationships on hold while their divorce is pending. There are several reasons for this which can be discussed either individually with one’s attorney or in a joint meeting.
Mental health experts and child specialists generally agree that seeing a parent in a new relationship before the divorce is finished is not good for children. At best, children are confused by the new significant adult in their lives; at worst, introducing a new romantic relationship to the children too soon can alienate children from one or both parents. Child specialists recommend that a parent wait at least six months after a divorce is final before introducing children to new romantic partners.
If separated spouses discuss the issue and agree that dating will be acceptable during the pendency of their divorce, the following issues should also be considered:
These are just a few examples of issues that can arise and should be addressed when couples are separating. You can expect that other issues will arise. Here are some guidelines for starting a discussion about these topics: