You Want a Divorce But Can’t Afford It

Date: May 15, 2010      Publication: Bottom Line Personal      Source: Joel D. Block      Print:

How to live together — peacefully

You would like a divorce, but the legal fees and cost of two residences are beyond your means. For now, you have to continue living together. How to make it work…


Explain to the children that you have decided to sleep apart and live apart (together) in the house. The essence of your statement goes something like this, “We have given our best effort to making this marriage work, and we have not been successful. We have decided to stay together but to live as independently of each other as possible. Nothing we do will change our love and caring for you… ” Children need certainty and are better off knowing what’s happening than wondering about it and drawing their own (perhaps frightening) conclusions.

Establish a code of behavior. Arguing in front of the children is harmful and so is speaking negatively about the other parent. An agreement defining acceptable behavior should be drawn up in writing and signed by both partners.

Example: “Rather than airing grievances in front of the children, they will be aired privately every Tuesday evening.”

Also, if either or both of you decide to date while you still live together, people you are dating should not come to the home.

Divide up the child care. Who is in charge of whom, and when, must be carefully defined. And block out times for separate vacations. If they are to be without the children, plan for coverage.


Divide up the expenses if both partners work. Whatever you decide should not be viewed as “forever” but renegotiated each year.

Make a list of household chores, and split them equitably.

Decide who sleeps where. If there are separate bathrooms, it’s better if each has his/her own. (As a courtesy, notify the other partner if you plan to have guests sleep over.)

Get separate phone lines. Separate phone lines with password-protected voice mail are worth the expense to maintain privacy. Password protected email accounts also are suggested.

Reassess the situation periodically. The financial hardship of a divorce should be periodically weighed against a living arrangement that may slowly eat away at integrity and well-being. Living together but estranged is not recommended for the long term.

Source: Joel D. Block, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and senior psychologist at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Glen Oaks, New York. He is author of Naked Intimacy: How to Increase True Openness in Your Relationship and Broken Promises, Mended Hearts: Maintaining Trust in Love Relationships (both McGraw-Hill).