17th Apr 2020

Separated but still Cohabiting – Tips to Stay Sane

Director David Allison and associate Hannah Greene provide their top tips for staying sane if you are separated but you are still living with your partner.

Spare a thought for those who have taken the step to separate, but due to the Coronavirus crisis are now in lockdown together. After three weeks of quarantine, even the most steady relationships are wobbling a bit. This is a particularly difficult time for couples who have decided to part ways, but are now prohibited from doing so. Below are some tips for staying sane:

  1. Don’t set yourself up for a fight

It’s easy to get into the mindset that the person you are living with is now the enemy. When this happens, every conversation and of course every argument becomes positional. It’s very easy to get into point scoring and think that these “points” will be taken into account later in divorce or financial  proceedings. And do remember the negative impact that constant arguing may have on any children sharing the home with you.

As cathartic as this may feel at the time, if you are able to maintain an amicable relationship with your former partner, you are more likely to be able to come to any financial or childcare arrangements after separation more swiftly and easily.

Some people will see now as a good time to “evidence gather” in order to set themselves up well for potential court proceedings. Do remember that looking through someone else’s private documents without their permission will be actionable, any evidence gathered this way cannot be used in court and you are very likely to colour (adversely) the view the court takes of you more generally.

Similarly, it is not advisable to record your former partner whilst in an argument. Although it is tempting, any “admissions” made will likely be outweighed by the fact that you knew there was a recording and they did not.

2. It’s okay to apologise

It is inevitable that tensions will be high and this will lead to arguments.  If you do lose your temper, remember that it’s okay to apologise, and this apology should not be held against you in lawyers’ letters.

3. Respect each other’s space

Insofar as it is possible, try and agree to each having some private space within the family home. If there is limited space, try and agree to each person having exclusive occupation of a room for a few hours – ie. you may agree to alternate evenings that each person has use of the living room.

4. Use the time constructively

If you and your former partner are able to use this time to have constructive conversations about separation and finances then this is a good time to have a frank discussion. If, however, you find yourselves unable to have a constructive conversation about financial separation, do not continue down this line as it will only lead to arguments. Your best bet will be to agree to hold off all conversations about financial settlement and for these communications to pass only through solicitors.

Agreeing a “time out” rule – where either of you can press pause on a conversation before it escalates can also be a real relationship-saver.

Even from home, if you do need some help but do not wish to involve lawyers, it might be worth considering counselling or mediation.

Mediators are operating remotely over video conference and are trained to help you sort out your issues constructively. At FLiP we are successfully hosting mediation sessions using our video conferencing facilities and have had great success in guiding clients towards the resolution of their family law issues. This could be the overall solution (for implementation as soon as lock down ends) or just some constructive rules for getting through this chapter of your lives in good shape and ready to make constructive use of what lies ahead.

Counselling is also available to help navigate difficult issues and conversations. At FLiP our in-house counsellor Jo Harrison is available to help facilitate discussions between you and, where appropriate, you and your partner together. Find out more about our counselling services here.

5. Be realistic and remember this won’t be forever

Realistically, it’s not reasonable to demand someone moves out of the family home at this time unless they already have another property available for them to occupy.  As difficult as this time is, it won’t last forever, and once the lockdown is finished one of you will be able to move out, or at least be able to spend more time away from the house.

Should you find yourself in the difficult position of being separated and still living together and needing advice on where you stand, our talented team of lawyers, mediators and arbitrators are able to offer swift support and advice. Contact us at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.