Thinking about separating from your husband, wife or de-facto partner? It can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. One of your earliest questions is likely to be, “Where will I live?” This can be a scary thought, especially when there are children involved or if you are financially reliant on your partner. 

Separating under the same roof

Many people will separate from their partner, but remain living in the same house for financial reasons. This is known as ‘separation under the same roof’. This may involve living in separate bedrooms, preparing your own meals rather than eating as a family and undertaking your own laundry.

Some things to consider are:

  1. Can the house you live in accommodate you and your ex-partner sleeping in separate rooms?
  2. Can you and your ex-partner stay away from conflict, or is there a risk of family violence to one or both of you?
  3. If there are children involved:
    • Can you and your ex-partner maintain an almost business-like relationship and protect the children from conflict and Family Violence?
    • What will the arrangements for the children be? Who will take them to and from school, extracurricular activities and the like?
  4. What will be the financial arrangements? Who will pay the mortgage, for example?
  5. How will day to day living expenses such as groceries be paid?
  6. In relation day to day tasks, will you each be solely responsible for your own meal preparation, cleaning and the like?
  7. What will the ground rules be, including having visitors to the home?
  8. Are you prepared to live separated under the same roof as your ex-partner for an indefinite period of time? If not, how long will you be able to sustain the arrangement?

If you are considering living separated under the one roof, it is important to think about these matters before separation, to avoid conflict later down the track. 

Staying in the home

If you cannot live separated under the same roof, the big question is: who will remain living in the home?

Generally, it is preferable for the children and the children’s primary carer to remain living in the home, as a matter of stability and convenience for the children.

If your ex-partner refuses to vacate the home, you do have the option to apply to the Court for a ‘sole occupation Order’, which will allow you to remain living in the home to the exclusion of your ex-partner. This will require you preparing an Affidavit setting out your evidence, which you may be cross examined on at Court.

If there is family violence, or risk of family violence, then it is important to seek legal advicebefore you tell your partner that you want to separate, to ensure that you, and the children if applicable, are protected from harm.

In relation to finances, there should be a discussion about who will pay the mortgage, rates and other outgoings on the property and any investment properties or joint debts prior to physical separation. This may involve a discussion about maintenance, whereby one party to the relationship pays the other party money after separation to help them meet their necessary expenses, including mortgage repayments, food and utilities.

Leaving the home

If you do decide to leave the home, you should consider:

  1. What personal belongings and furniture will I take with me?

    It can be difficult to gain access to the home to retrieve personal belongings and furniture once you have left, particularly if your ex-partner is being difficult. We suggest that you and your ex-partner come to an agreement about what furniture, belongings and sentimental items you will take before you vacate the home. When you leave, you should take the agreed items with you.
  2. Will I need money to pay for bond and rent?

    You will need to consider whether you need a lump sum of money for bond, rent and items of furniture that you will need in your new accommodation.
  3. Will I be able to afford accommodation close to my children’s school?

    Ideally, you should live close to where your children attend school, to minimise travel for them as much as possible. If you do not have family that you can stay with and do need to find rental accommodation, you will need to consider whether you can afford to pay rent on an ongoing basis at a property that is within close proximity to your children’s childcare/school. If you cannot, then you need to consider what impact this may have on the children and the child arrangements that will be in place with the other parent.

Pre-Separation Checklist

Given the complexity of these issues, it can be difficult to consider your alternatives - especially as you are also dealing with the emotion relating to an impending relationship breakdown.  Our handy, free Pre-Separation Checklist provides a comprehensive list of things you need to consider before leaving your partner. 

We also recommend that you seek legal advice about your options moving forward, before you decide to end your relationship, so that you can make an informed decision. At Tonkin Legal, we offer fixed fee Pre-Separation Advice.  As part of this service, we review your current situation and help you develop a plan for separation that protects your best interests and those of your children.  This investment in quality legal advice can save you a lot of money and heartache down the track.

The Family Law Team at Tonkin Legal Group are experienced in dealing with these issues and can assist you to make a decision that best suits your circumstances. Call us today on (03) 9435 9044 to make an appointment with one of our Family Lawyers.