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Living together post-divorce

For a variety of reasons divorced couples end up living together with the children after the divorce more and more often these days.

In one of my cases I represented a man. This situation was quite extraordinary. They had three children together and after the divorce he insisted, and she agreed, to him, her, their children as well as her new boyfriend and their child, all living under the same roof. They simply could not afford to move apart after the divorce, from a financial view-point.

Eventually my client contacted me and advised me that the tension between him and his ex-wife's new boyfriend simply became too much. There was too much arguing in the home. He realized that what he perceived to be in the best interests of the children was now having a negative input on them instead. He made a plan to find other accommodation and moved out.

A far more common situation however is one where the parties own a house together. In terms of the divorce order the house must be sold within a certain amount of time (eg. six months) after the divorce. Sometimes the divorce order would state that the one party would have to move out the house on date of divorce.

Sometimes however the parties agree in the divorce order that they can still carry on residing in the same house until it is sold. The divorce order in this type of scenario would then have no clause stating that a party must vacate on date of divorce.

This type of situation where the parties reside together until date of sale of the house works in some situations and doesn't work in others. It all depends on how well the parties get on and whether they are prepared to try and stay "friends" after the divorce. Some divorced couples can stay friends and some cannot.

I normally find that post-divorce, as soon as one party meets somebody else, this usually creates tension, especially where there are children involved. In that kind of situation it is usually better for the newly divorced couple to make a clean-break from each other and live in different houses.

I have heard many clients saying that after the divorce they live together with the ex-spouse for financial reasons. They agree that they can lead separate lives and "date" other people, but agree also not to introduce the children to any new partner. This makes a certain amount of sense to me.

I had one client who had been separated from his wife for eight months. In those eight months the wife had been involved in four different relationships with other men. My client and his wife had two children together who were also being introduced to the new partners. This in my opinion is wrong. These affairs have nothing to do with the children.

In conclusion it is my opinion that in certain situations it can work living together with the ex under the same roof post-divorce, whoever in most cases it does not. It is usually best to make a "clean break" and start off afresh after the divorce. The first step would be, if possible, to live apart from the ex.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce lawyer, Peter M Baker

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