Once the decision is made to end a marriage, one big question you may have is who will move out, and how soon. But what if it’s necessary to continue living together for a while longer? Is that a crazy idea? Can you make it work?

It’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to continue cohabitating for several months or even longer, especially if money is tight and neither can afford to set up a new household on their own. It also takes time to sell a house, establish new budgets, and find new places to live.

Fortunately, in Missouri divorcing couples are not legally required to live separately as long as the decision to divorce is mutual. (If one spouse contests the divorce, a separation of one to two years may be needed to help prove to the Court that the marriage is irretrievably broken)

Here are five tips to reduce the stress of living with your soon-to-be ex:

  1. Get in a different mindset: try to think of each other as roommates who share living expenses, but have separate schedules and independent lives.
  2. Set some ground rules about each other’s space and privacy. It obviously helps for each of you to have separate sleeping quarters that are off limits; if you have enough space for separate work and relaxation areas, that’s a good idea, too. If not, consider trading off: one gets use of the living room on Mondays and Wednesdays, the other on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.
  3. Schedule regular days and times to sit down together and discuss household matters and your plans for the divorce. Avoid off-the-cuff conversations, which can be stressful and counterproductive.
  4. Create separate budgets to cover everything from the mortgage to groceries, and get separate checking accounts to start getting in the habit of financial independence. Neither should make any big purchases until after the divorce is final.
  5. Don’t invite dates or a significant other to your shared living space. Even if the decision to divorce is mutual now, flaunting a girlfriend or boyfriend could create bitter feelings and become fodder for the other spouse’s divorce attorney down the road.

Of course, if living together ever becomes physically or emotionally unsafe for you, children, or pets in the household, leaving is generally the best recourse! Divorce is never easy, and being respectful of each other helps couples navigate the difficult path to separation.