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Is this a new divorce trend in Suffolk County and beyond? In the last two months, at the Long Island Center for Divorce Mediation, four different couples have wanted to do more than share legal and residential custody. They want to get divorced and live in the same house.
All four couples have much in common. They have young children. They sincerely want to co-parent. They have moved into good school districts on Long Island. They want to stay there. And each couple can only marginally afford to live in their chosen school district.
In order to solve the problem of staying in their school district and co-parenting their children, each couple has managed to put their disappointments, hurts and anger aside, especially in front of the children. Two of them are already living separate in the same house for more than a year. Each couple has decided to continue with the same financial arrangements after their divorce. Certainly this is a very different approach to getting a divorce than the norm.
How does it work in actuality? Lets look at one of the couples who is already living separately in their house. The father has a bedroom and den down in the walk-out basement. The mother used the main floor. When the children came home from school, they went down to dad to do their homework and have a snack. They stayed with dad until mom came home and called everyone for dinner. Dad ate with the family but made his own meals most of the time. Holidays were spent together as one big family.
While we at the Long Island Center for Divorce Mediation helped each couple to work out their issues the way they wanted, Fred and I (Fred Klarer, Suffolk Divorce Mediator and Divorce Lawyer and myself, Dr. Diane Kramer, Divorce Mediator and Marriage and Family Therapist.) also had each couple create a Plan B. Plan B is a contingency plan included in the Stipulation of Settlement (contract) between the ex-Spouses.
Plan B will kick into place when one Spouse or another wants to end the co-habitating arrangment. It includes stipulations for custody, support and what happens to the house.
Why do Fred and I believe Plan B is necessary?
- It is very unlikely that both Spouses will feel satisfied with their co-habitation over many years. Once they start to date and perhaps find new significant others, the co-habitation would probably become awkward. Who wants to date a person who goes home to his or her ex-Spouse?
- It is not clear that co-habitation is a great idea for the children. Children partially base their future intimate relationships on their parents as role models. How will a non-intimate connection between mom and dad work for the children as they develop? At this point, there is not enough research data on that topic but it is still important to ponder.
- Without Plan B in their agreement, ex-Spouses will have to start over to formulate a financial and custodial plan. They will have to go through the divorcing process again even though they are already divorced.
What do you think? Would you live like this? Let us know at 631-757-1554 or by sending an email to Divorce Mediation Long Island. You can read about our divorce mediation process as well as our divorcing services.
Dr. Diane Kramer, Partner, Divorce Mediator and Marriage and Family Therapist
Fred Klarer, Esq., Partner, Divorce Mediator and Divorce Lawyer