Life Relationships Living with your ex: a new reality for many Australians

Living with your ex: a new reality for many Australians

Awkward! Staying under one roof after a split is becoming more and more common. Photo: Getty
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Living with the ex after a relationship ends (technically dubbed ‘separated under one roof’) is a growing phenomenon reported by an increasing number of divorce lawyers.

The high cost of housing is the main factor, says family law specialist, Catherine Ross.

Based on price-to-income ratios, Australian housing is among the least affordable in the world according to a survey by Demographia.

Since the global financial crisis, Ms Ross has seen a rise in separated couples living together prior to a property settlement. “One person can’t afford to move out, so they remain living under the one roof.”

Also on the increase is a situation where the kids remain in the house, Ross reports.

“The mother, for instance, will live one week with the kids, then she’ll leave and the father will live a week in the house. It’s often not a great idea long term.”

Matt Garrett, of Relationships Australia, says an increased tendency for couples to stay together for the sake of children also drives the trend.

Mr Garrett says brokering an amicable living arrangement after separation is tough. “There’s lots of lingering emotions. They’re not landlord and renter; they’re not boarders and lodgers. They’re a category all their own. There’s no rule book around this.”

For many, like Kate Wilson, whose husband ended their marriage in 2012, living with the ex wasn’t a lifestyle choice.

“I was a stay-at-home mum [in South Australia] as he worked away [on oil rigs]. I had no money to move out.

“It was extremely difficult. We had separate bedrooms. Dinnertime was awkward. Conflict generally occurred when my youngest was at school or in bed. We spent a lot of time at friends’ when the ex was home.”

For health expert, Sam Beau Patrick, sharing her Gold Coast home with her ex, (father of her ten-year-old son), has proved beneficial.

“It offered my son stability and that is superior to any beef I have with this man.

“It’s a matter of being mature. Make sure you have an opportunity for an out if things don’t work out.”

Socially, it hasn’t been so easy, with some of her friends so uncomfortable with the arrangement they refuse to visit. “Lots of people think it’s really weird.”

For many, it’s a case of ‘better the devil you know.’ When celebrity profiler, Alan Stevens, needed a housemate to cut costs, his ex-wife was preferable to a stranger. The pair have shared his Newcastle home for the past three years.

They have one rule: respect the other person’s space.

“My friends were surprised at first,” Stevens reflects. “It also took pressure off the rest of the family. Instead of three houses; mine, hers and the in-laws to divide their time between, it’s now just the two houses.”

Garrett says those who choose this arrangement have enough of a connection to make it work.

“There is something about that other person they can trust. If it’s just about money, it’s not going to work.”

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